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Get on the bus

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It was an odd sight amid all the big-block, hemi-hyped, gas-guzzling classics rolling down Woodward during last Saturday’s Dream Cruise. But there is was, a converted 1991 GMC school bus with cornfields painted on its side and a bunch of college-age kids on board.

Since early June, the bus has been touring the country to promote a cleaner, saner future. Instead of gas, the vehicle runs on biodiesel — a refined fuel made entirely from corn oil and other agricultural products. And when they couldn’t find filling stations delivering the green fuel (as was most often the case), those on board simply pulled the bus up to restaurants and asked for discarded fryer grease to keep the vehicle rolling.

They managed to cover 12,000 miles that way this summer.

When they arrived in Detroit, Jamie Henn, a junior at Vermont’s Middlebury College, wasn’t exactly expecting a lot of hugs from a crowd that worships at the altar of high horsepower. What he did get, though, was a surprising number of signals showing support. A banner reading “Crusin’ ain’t easy at $3 a gallon” seemed to strike a chord, says Henn.

“You’d see these older guys with beer bellies mouthing the words, and then they’d nod and give us a thumbs-up,” Henn reports.

Younger folk were even more jazzed. “Kids our age were really excited about it,” Henn says. “Here we are, doing this sort of political thing, taking this road trip, and here we are in the middle of this parade, playing music. It was fantastic.”

In other words, kids, activism can be way fun. Give it a try. There’s plenty of motivation — unless, of course, you dig a future full of fighting wars in the Middle East to guarantee American access to crude, and you like the idea of watching polar ice caps melt from the global warming being produced by the burning of fossil fuels.

On Monday, the bus riders along with 40 or 50 supporters who converged on Motown were planning on presenting a United Auto Worker rep from Ford’s Rouge River plant with an oversized engraved key representing the more than 22,000 signatures collected from people vowing to support a so-called Declaration of Independence from Oil. The ceremony was set to take place at the Highland Park site where mass production of the Model T began. The Roadsters are working in conjunction with an outfit called Jumpstart Ford, a like-minded group that’s attempting to pressure the company old Henry started into cleaning up its act.

Why Ford?

“According to the U.S. EPA, Ford cars and trucks have had the worst average fuel economy of all the major automakers for the last five years in a row,” explains the group on its Web site, jumpstartford.com.

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