Burning wood for fuel to cope with gas prices

July 17, 2008 5:49:24 AM PDT
Record-high gasoline prices have stirred up anger and anxiety around the world. But in a small village in northern Sweden, retiree Tore Blomqvist is happily cruising around in his car.

Blomqvist, a 78-year-old former mechanic, said he recently cut his fuel costs by some 86 percent by using the same type of fuel he employed to cope with the gasoline shortages of World War II: wood gas.

Swedes commonly used wood gas during the war, when fuel was sparse and expensive. Wood gas is produced by burning wood in a container in the back of the car.

"I am an old man and I grew up using wood gas," Blomqvist said Wednesday. "It seemed suitable to start using it again now when the fuel prices are so high."

Blomqvist said the technology works well, although it takes a little extra time to get the engine started. "It depends on how dry the wood is," he said.

But he said the savings were worth it: a recent 300-mile drive from the village of Dala-Jarna in central Sweden to his home in Odland in the north cost him only four bags of wood, or 100 kronor, about $17.

In comparison, the same journey on gasoline would have cost him around 700 kronor - $118.

On Wednesday, crude oil traded at $133.64 a barrel, about 80 percent higher than a year ago.