Offline Hootie

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The Survival Podcast

EPISODE:    707
DATE:          July 21, 2011
TITLE:         Steven Harris on Bio Fuels for personal energy independence
SPEAKERS:  Jack Spirko & Steven Harris



Steven Harris is a consultant and expert in the field of energy. He is the founder and CEO of Knowledge Publications, the largest energy only publishing company in the USA.
Mr. Harris came to his current position to do full time work on the development and implementation of hydrogen, biomass and solar related energy systems after spending 10 years in the Aero-Thermal Dynamics department of the Scientific Labs of Chrysler Corporation.
Mr. Harris is currently working on Project Destiny, a solar hydrogen energy system and holds breakthrough technology in the field of Solar Energy Conversion and Biomass Gasification. He is authoring an upcoming book, “The Positive Promotion of Hydrogen Energy a Model for Success in an Economically Driven Market” and the currently released book, “Sunshine to Dollars”, “Surviving the Blackout of 2003?, plus the author of 4 Hydrogen related DVDs and 2 other videos.

<intro song “Revolution is You” by Gregg Yows>

JACK SPIRKO: Hi folks, this is Jack Spirko with another edition of the survival podcast. As always, one man’s view of the changing world, the changing times, and the things we can all do to live a better life. If times get tough, or even if they don't. Coming to you once again from Hot Springs Village, Arkansas. High atop the highway village ridge line. TSPN, The Survival Podcast Network head quarters, aka "The Ant Hill." We are going to have a great show today. It is episode 707, and it is July 21, 2011. Today we have with us, hanging on, waiting to come talk to us, Steven Harris CEO of knowledge publications. Steven is the most switched on guy i could find. A listener, I don't know who you are, but a listener out there got in touch with him said "get in touch with jack for a bio gas guy" and he did. Whoever you where thank you and let me know who you are because I got something for you for making the connection, because it was that big a deal. i love when the audience brings people together with TSP and we get something really awesome. The interview you are about to hear is actually recorded yesterday, so I got some interesting information today. In the house keeping sections, about Steven's company,  I didn't get on the air during the interview so hold tight through the house keeping if you usually skip it. What you are going to hear here today are different ways and different resources to product your own energy as you probably never thought of. Absolutely awesome awesome interview.

Before we put steven on, lets take care of our sponsors. Sponsor of the day #1 today Ready Made Resources. What more can you ask of a company other then this is our name, our name is what we do, and then they do it. that is what ready made resources does. They have all the resources you need for your prepping and I mean everything. From gardening to long term storage to tactical gear. You name it, 12 volt products for your solar and wind projects. Whatever you are looking for you are going to find it at ready made resources great prices, great shipping, great service, all you need ready to go. Just show up, click, order and it will come to your house. How great is that.

Next up today is The other precious metal, copper jacketed lead. You'll find that at Bulk Ammo. You'll find great pricing. The shipping is lightning fast. It is almost scary how quick. You order and like here it comes. It's amazing to me that they run that efficient of an operation. Especially at the thin margins they must be selling at cause it is some of the best pricing I have seen on ammo out there. What ever you are looking for you are going to find it there, but they really specialize in what we call the common caliber. Your 40 smith and weston, your 9mm, your 223, your 308, that type of stuff. Checkout today. Again great service, great prices, lightning fast shipping, what more could you ask for.

Next up today. Remember to connect with me on facebook, youtube and twitter. I want to announce I have a new video out this morning with game camera footage. This time it is still photos. i have blended them together and took out a lot of the redundant ones and put some music to it. It really came out kinda cool. You get to see some really cool deer. I can't believe what is in my backyard not. It's pretty amazing. Four different bucks, some raccoons, and even a mountain rabbit showing up just before daybreak to a little corn. Checkout my YouTube channel if you haven't done so in a while. Also on YouTube, remember if you're a subscriber, YouTube made a change a while ago. If you were a subscriber any channel you were subscribed to you stop getting emails about. Whenever you are watching my video, even if you are subscribed, it will say subscribe. Well, click on that and it will drop down. You can click a box and you'll get an update by YouTube any time I release a new video on my channel, if you want to make sure you stay in touch with them really quick. Also wanted to remind you today to get in touch with our community through our forum. It is amazing the connections you can make there. Their is a tremendous amount of knowledge and resources waiting for you. It is really the heart of the TSP community.

Last but not least. Do consider joining the Member Support Brigade. If you do that you get exclusive content, available only to members. Including discounts to lots of venders. This is what I wanted to talk about a little bit before i bring steven on. when i got done interviewing him yesterday. I realize how much he had available. You know what I did. I hit him up for you guys in the MSB. I said, "Look man, there is a ton of members who support the show financially. That are going to love what you are going to do, and are going to want to do business with you. If they are part of my Member Support Brigade I want a discount for them." I explained about the program 1 year commitment, all that jazz. He said, "Fine. I can't discount everything in my store because of things like the stoves and the bigger bulky physical products I already sell at such a thin margin I can't do it. All the books, all the DVDs, and downloadable videos that I sell on my site. Books, DVDs, Videos. I will do a 15% discount on." He setup a discount code. It is already in the MSB. So if you are a MSB members today, and you hear him mention a book or video or something you want to get you hands on. Make sure you get your discount, because I mean I just hit him up as soon as we closed the interview for you guys. If you are considering joining the MSB and you have been wondering what kind of benefits you get. Little advertisement before I bring Steven on. This is the kind of vender I hit up for you. I checked out today. It 's now 29 venders you get discounts to. Whole bunch of other stuff. So that wraps up the house keeping

(time: 5min 32sec)
« Last Edit: April 19, 2012, 01:57:12 PM by Hootie »

Offline AngusBangus

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Jack Spirko: All right folks, as I said during the intro segment, we are fortunate to have with us today Steven Harris, who is an expert in biogas among many other things and the CEO of Knowledge Publications. Steve is a consultant and an expert in the field of energy. He's the founder and CEO, as I said, of Knowledge Publications, the largest energy-only publishing company in the USA.
Mr. Harris came to his current position to do full time work on the development and implementation of hydrogen, biomass, and solar-related energy systems after spending 10 years in the aerothermaldynamics department of the scientific labs of Chrysler Corporation where he was a pioneer member of a group that developed and implemented successful speed-to-market development concepts. And that all mean he's a really switched-on guy and I had a lot of questions about biogas. In just a preliminary conversation I've already learned things I had no idea about. And he's here today to help us all learn how we can make this part of what we're doing in our lives for preparedness and just to live a better life altogether.
Hey Steve, welcome to the show and thanks for being with us today.

Steven Harris: Hey! I'm glad to be here and not to mention making things better for your life. This stuff is just pure fun and neat!

Jack Spirko: Yeah, I basically saw some folks doing – we're going to talk about two different types of ways to do this today, but they were doing something kinda like this and they basically created this little pressure vessel for it, and they lit a flame and fired up an old stove. I started talking about it and some listeners said to me, “Well, what do you have to do to appliances to get 'em where they can...” – they started asking me all these questions I didn't know. So I sent the troops out and one of them found you, an expert. So let's talk about that and how we can do these things today. But first, can you tell folks just a little bit about yourself beyond the bio I just gave them.

Steven Harris: Wow! If I'd known that bio was going to be read over the radio to so many people I would have probably spent a little bit more time writing it, but it's a good description of my background. I've been in the energy field – people ask me when did you get interested in energy and I'd say, “Well, 2nd grade”. I have pursued energy all through my collegiate education and even when I was a development engineer at Chrysler Corporation I spent a great deal of work even consulting on the side in the energy field, doing research & development in the energy field, as well as getting every chance I could get to play with the electric vehicle group when EVs were in their infancy back in the 90s and other such areas. So I basically live, eat and breathe energy.
When I left the Chrysler corporation around 2000 I went out as an independent consultant into the energy field consulting on fuel cells, hydrogen production, hydrogen generation and storage, high temperature solar thermal work, biomass gasification – the conversion of biomass over to a hydrogen rich fuels is one of my specialties – and I built up this great library of books because I was always a bookworm. People kept on asking me about this book and that book and what's a good one for this. And I I'm going, “Hey, there's a market for this.”
So I started Knowledge Publications, which turned out to be, and we publish, license, and or write and author and publish DVDs on the best subjects you never heard about, energy. And it's all DIY hands-on.
Our main website is like UNIFORM SIERRA HOTEL TWO DOT COM, which stands for United States Hydrogen. It's a little hard to read over the air. So for any of you listeners who don't have a chance to write this down and you really want to see everything we're talking about on this show tonight you can just go to and you'll have all the show notes and all the stuff that Jack & I are talking about.
But Knowledge Publications has been going since about 2006 on a hard and heavy scale and we have about 65 books and DVDs that we author and we publish and we reproduce from solar to wind to biomass. I've got the biggest collection of biomass gasification books there are to make a fuel cell in your kitchen, to hydrogen production, hydrogen storage, how to run your car off of hydrogen. I don't mean HHO junk, I mean real, bottled, compressed hydrogen. And other fuels – natural gas, propane, etc. I have a pickup truck – you can see the video on our link to our YouTube site of me driving the truck around off of natural gas from a balloon. And natural gas is a close cousin to the biogas that you were talking about. You'll see me run my Honda generator off natural gas in a weather balloon floating over the generator.
I can pretty much answer a great deal of all your questions you're going to have today about not only biogas, which is methane from anaerobic digestion, but there's another biogas called biomass gasification which is what used to power 1 million vehicles. ONE MILLION vehicles drove on “wood gas” from a wood gasifier that was on the front or rear of the vehicle during World War II. This was in Austria as well as Australia, Germany and Great Britain. It's been used for a long time.

Jack Spirko: Yeah, I'm completely blown away. I'm already seeing Steven Harris Part II and Part III on The Survival Podcast because I know we're not going to – no way in an hour we're going to cover the depth of knowledge you have. And I think my listeners are going to latch on to you as one of our new favorite guests honestly. Because just what you're saying already just has me intrigued and excited.
Before we kind of go deep into that, though, one of the things in your guest survey you filled out was something you're working on is called Project Destiny. I thought that was really cool. Could you tell people a little bit about that and then we'll get into some meat and potatoes.

Steven Harris: Project Destiny is the large-scale implementation of real solar energy that will put this country – that will basically let the Arabs sell sand instead of sell oil; it's to get this country back onto energy independence. And it has to do with the development of large-scale solar energy. We're talking about concentrators that are 30 feet in diameter; we're talking about 1,000 square feet of useless desert now turned into a solar energy farm. It's for the production of hydrogen as well as electricity. It can make methane. It can make the whole variety of chemistry regarding energy.
It's a project between myself and Roy McAllister, and we're going to implement this. We are going to do this. And we are going to end up doing it with our own private money, which is why we founded Knowledge Publications was to finance our own research and development because we got tired of dealing with the financial idiots who wanted to come in and invest and take the thing over. They just didn't get it. Real large-scale solar energy that can put this country on energy independence is truly 100% profitable. In fact, half the technology we're using is PRE-WORLD WAR I TECHNOLOGY!

Jack Spirko: Yeah, that's what's blowing me away. I had no idea how much of this stuff was going on 80 years ago. And it's just like people figured out that oil was, I wouldn't say easy, but profitable to refine and you could sell it cheap in the mind of the consumer and all of it just went out the window.

Steven Harris: Yeah, and then there's the thing I call the worst thing that ever happened to the solar industry, which is solar photovoltaic panels. I hate solar PV panels with a passion when it comes to the philosophy of solar energy because they think they're this great be-all end-all thing and you can never, ever get your energy back on a solar PV panel in anything less than 15 years in prime desert sunshine because it takes so much energy to make the polycrystalline cell that you just don't have enough time in the sun to get the energy back. Basically you're making the cell with nuclear energy, most of it from Japan, to grow the silicon to be cut into wafers to then be treated to make the cell that you see in your solar panel. And you're just moving that energy someplace where you have sunshine and basically just getting it back.

Jack Spirko: That's interesting. I've always had an issue, but I didn't know a better way, with how long the payback is. So that's a great setup into one of the questions you wanted me to ask you today which is, “What is the best use of real solar energy that everyone can use in a disaster or even every day?”

Steven Harris: I'll tell you, it's so darn easy and totally documented in my book, Sunshine to Dollars. I titled that specifically because I wanted you to realize how easy it is to take sunshine and convert it right into dollars. In the book I detail some of the best thermal solar stuff – solar heaters, solar hot water heaters you can imagine. And here is how simple it is.
In a disaster, what do you need? You need clean water and also for your comfort, hot water. So if you raise water above 160 degrees for 10 minutes you've now pasteurized it and killed most of the pathogens. If you bring it to near boiling temperature of course you're even going to get the spores after 10-15 minutes. You can do that. I did this in Michigan sunshine in the fall and it got to 185.
You go take a door, any door, like a wood door or foam core door, and you lay the thing down. You go find some 2x4s from the building that was blown over, with your saw and you cut the 2x4 frame out and screw it together around the top of the door. You get the door, you get the 2x4 as a frame on top of the door. You lay down some black plastic like some 4 mil black plastic from Home Depot and then you go find yourself a sliding glass door, which is dual-layered tempered glass. You take that glass and you just lay it on top of the 2x4 frame with the black plastic underneath of it. Before you do that you fill it with about 15 gallons of water. And in no time – I'm talking an hour, or less or more depending on your sunshine, you will have water so hot it will scald you. I mean it's nothing for it to get to 185 in Michigan in the fall.
Talking about summer time in a hurricane zone and everything else, you're going to have water that's hot and pasteurized that you can then to cool down and drink. Or you can then cool it down and you can use for washing yourself for comfort purposes. If it's colder climate, you can take the water and put it in some 2 liter soda bottles and wrap it up with you at night underneath your blankets and stay warm. Real solar energy is solar heat and solar thermal. You have to work hard to make it not to happen because the sunshine will fall and it will heat stuff up.

Jack Spirko: Correct me if I'm wrong, but even photovoltaic, basically that's what it really is doing is converting the heat into energy, but it's taking kind of the long way around isn't it?

Steven Harris: No, no, no! Photovoltaic actually uses the photons of light from the sunshine hitting the polycrystalline and it is knocking loose electrons and those electrons are then beginning to flow. It is a photovoltaic process.

Jack Spirko: So it's completely independent of temperature? It could be 0 degrees Celsius and it would still do the same thing?

Steven Harris: Correct, it would do that. Besides that, I have a book I've republished called Solar Heat from 1903 that shows a printing press in France called the “Sunshine Press” running off of a solar concentrator. It's running off of solar steam and that's how they printed their publication every week was with sunshine and it was called a solar press. And that's detailed in my book from 1903 called Solar Heat. There'll be a link on that will send you to if you're interested. But I've republished that book to show people that solar energy is not a new thing, it's an old thing. It's been used for a long time and it can be used with today's manufacturing, research and development abilities quicker and easier if we just get off of this distraction of political-ness regarding energy as well as the photovoltaics, we can get to real solar energy.

Jack Spirko: Wow. I wanted to talk to you about biogas and there's kind of like biogas that's made by the sun I guess is some of the stuff you're talking about here. Can you explain to people kind of what we were talking about before the interview started about the two ways there are to make biogas for fuel and energy use and kind of just the difference between the two? Like I was thinking one way and you've already given me a much better way. So let's clue the audience in on that.

Steven Harris: Well, to answer your first question, everything with a carbon atom in it is made by the sun. You're made from the sun; your clothes if they're polyester or cotton are made by the sun. So you could say yeah, biogas is made by the sun, because it grew the organic material that was either digested through an animal and/or just grown and put into the biogas reactor to make the methane or the hydrogen and carbon monoxide.
Basically there are 2 ways of making biogas and they're completely different. The first one is the one that you were referring to in your original discussion where you take a like a 55 gallon drum, you fill it full of manure, or manure and grass clippings, or manure and leaves, and you close it off. You put a hose coming off of it. That will go through 3 days of aerobic – with oxygen – digestion and produce nothing but CO2. Then once all the oxygen is consumed in the barrel and in all the water that's in the barrel it goes through anaerobic digestion, which means without air. And anaerobic bacteria, when they feed upon the carbon-based energy source, the carbon-based waste material that's in your barrel or your digester, it produces methane. It breaks down the compounds and produces methane and a little bit of carbon dioxide. And this is what you run to your lantern or to your stove or you can compress and use in your car. It's been used in China for decades if not centuries.

Jack Spirko: And when you do that, just real quick because I'm a little confused on this, because you got this three days of producing CO2. Are we doing something to vent that CO2 or is that CO2 part of why the methane concentration is lower there than with natural gas, because it's like 60% versus 95%?

Steven Harris: No, you just vent it. You just run it through an airlock and vent it. There's nothing you can do with it. That's just the oxygen-based bacteria consuming everything in there and then the oxygen is gone and then the bacteria that don't use oxygen, the anaerobes, take over and start digesting.
This is exactly what's done in a wastewater treatment plant. Wastewater treatment plants are generally completely self-powered off of the methane they produce from yours and my waste that flows through the sewers and goes to them. So this is one operation to making biogas.
Another way of making biogas is called biomass gasification. And this is a high temperature process where you are partially burning wood and/or organic material. Now everyone knows that a fire gives off carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is a wonderful fuel. It burns beautifully. So a biomass gasifier, what it does is it optimizes the partial combustion of anything you put in there to produce hydrogen and carbon monoxide because all organic material is made up of hydrogen, carbon and oxygen.

Jack Spirko: (sarcasm) But I thought hydrocarbons were bad!!! (sarcasm)

Steven Harris: This is organic material, not a hydrocarbon. A hydrocarbon is nothing but carbon and hydrogen, nothing else. Thus hydrocarbon. All organic materials are made up of at least carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. Like cellulose is C6H12O6. Sorry, cellulose is C6H10O5. You got me.

(Transcriber's note: Steve's definition of hydrocarbon is correct. But organic material includes hydrocarbons. They are the most basic organic material, for instance methane CH4. Steve gave the definition for a carbohydrate - substances containing CARBOn, HYDrogen, and oxygen “ATE”. Clearly, sugar was on his brain as evidenced in the follow-up discussion. Hydrocarbons AND carbohydrates are ALL organic material.)

Jack Spirko: That was sugar wasn't it.

Steven Harris: Yeah, sucrose.

Jack Spirko: I just turned over a brain cell from high school chemistry, wow! I don't know where that was hiding.

Steve I've been dealing a lot lately with making fuel alcohol from sugar and that's why it popped into my head.
So what you do is you do biomass gasification and you break down thermally, at around 1200 degrees, this organic material and it produces a very quick and readily [available] stream of carbon monoxide, hydrogen, and nitrogen from the air. So, instead of a biomass methane digester – it takes about three days to start and it will run for about three weeks before it depletes the material making methane and carbon dioxide. A biomass gasifier takes minutes to start up. You basically light it, turn on your engine and start sucking air through it. Or you turn on a blower and start blowing air through it. It will make a continual stream of hydrogen, carbon monoxide and nitrogen from the air, which is sometimes called “wood gas” or “producer gas”. You can go to Wikipedia and read about those.
Plus if you want to see it done right now, if you can go to, you'll see a link to the biomass wood gas stove. We sell a stove that's a lightweight backpacking stove. We throw in twigs and sticks and everything, and you light it. It runs on 2 AA batteries for like 20 hours. It will gasify the wood that you put into it and then immediately burn the gas. It makes for a very clean, very neat flame. But we sell the gasifying wood stove to prove to everyone how simple gasification actually is.

Jack Spirko: it sounds very similar to the concept of a rocket stove, where –

Steven Harris: No.

Jack Spirko: No, it's not the same thing?

Steven Harris: Completely different and we sell rocket stoves. We sell the best rocket stove on the face of the planet on our website as well and there'll be a link on that at as well.
A rocket stove does full combustion. It is actually containing the heat around your fuel and so your fuel doesn't cool down. And it is drawing in air through the bottom and it is preheating that air, which is making for more efficient combustion, more complete combustion, then directing that flame upwards directly onto the bottom of a pot. So a rocket stove is actually as opposite of a wood gas stove or a wood gas operation as you could possibly get.
If you wanted to run an engine off wood, off of sticks of wood, wood that fall on the ground, wood chips, etc. you would use this gasification process. In fact, our book that documents it the best is Hydrogen Gas Generator Volume III and Hydrogen Gas Generator Volume IV, which is critical to remember. Volume III and IV is the hands-on how-to book of how to take an engine, put a gasifier in front of it, start the engine and have it gasify the air coming in through the wood to run the engine. And volume III and IV is hands-on, step-by-step exploded diagrams. The bottom of the gasifier is made from a stainless steel salad bowl colander that you drill holes through. This is all off-the-shelf stuff, parts from Home Depot literally.

Jack Spirko: So I don't have to be a machinist or have an engineering degree to do this stuff?

Steven Harris: No welding, just might have to cut some sheet metal, bolt some things together, cut a little bit of chain, and hang the colander with a hole below a piece of sheet metal like furnace ducting. And you put that inside of a 33-gallon barrel and then you put a trashcan on top of it with a hole cut in the bottom as your hopper. It's called the FEMA gasifier is what it's called. It's detailed in the book and it works very good. I've got video of it if you go to my YouTube channel, and there's a link at, you will find a video of me talking about the book, as well as in that video is one of my customers who made one of these and sent me the video of it.

Jack Spirko: Awesome! So if you can run a motor on it, you can run a generator on it. And if you can run a generator on it you can make electricity for your house with it, right?

Steven Harris: True. Completely true.

Jack Spirko: Unbelievable. That we're not doing this is what's unbelievable; not that it works, that it does work and it's that simple. My thought is well, what if people got behind it and started innovating and going further with it. It seems like we could running our whole country off of what we're throwing away, raking up and filling landfills with. Can you talk a little about the history of vehicles running on biogas because that's been going on forever as you were saying earlier?

Steven Harris: Yeah. Over 1 million vehicles during World War II ran off this biogas/wood gas/producer gas, depending on which lexicon you're using. You might have seen pictures of vehicles with these funny tanks on the front or on the rear of the trunk or something. This is what people would do because they didn't have gasoline. They would fill up these gasifiers, which consist of the hot portion, the reactor, and then a bunch of cooling and filter material, which was excelsior, straw, grass or various other materials to condense the tars out of it. Then it would run to the engine.
Now the energy is what I call kinda “fluffy”. It's not dense like gasoline. So your 200 horsepower car might only be getting 75 horsepower out of it, but that's more than enough to move you down the road. In fact when trucks were run off these gasifiers and they were loaded, many times they'd have a hard time getting up a hill. And what would do is they'd switch over to gasoline to go up the hill. Then to go down the hill and the rest of their flat driving they'd turn off the gasoline and just run off of the biogas.

Jack Spirko: It makes me think of the Daimler motor that's the big V8. When you're on the highway it cuts back to 4 cylinders, but when you need the acceleration it's there. And then I guess the other thing is because we're not trying to be political with this, we're just trying to do what works, having a kind of, let's say, a hybrid situation, I mean we're not – okay, we use some gas maybe here and there for what gas is best for. When I say gas I mean gasoline. But we can also use this stuff for what it is really appropriate for. What I'm sticking on here is this concept of me being able to generate electricity for my house. Now when I'm doing this, can I build the gas up and store it somehow to use it as needed or do I have to kind of like use it as soon as it comes out of the chute so to speak?

Steven Harris: It's better to use it as it comes out of the chute because you can make it on demand. Storing it requires a compressor. The best compressor that most of the public is going to be able to get their hands on is a 200 psi shop compressor. Now I have, in fact, taken 4 propane tanks, and I mean the big 100-pound propane tanks, not the 100-gallon, but the 100-pound tanks from Lowe's, and I rigged them together in the back of my pickup truck. I compressed them up to 200 psi with wood gas and I would drive my pickup truck for about 15 miles on this because I had about the equivalent of one gallon of gasoline stored in those four propane cylinders in the back of the pickup truck.
So I have done both. If you want to go to a higher pressure, you've got to use a high-pressure scuba diving compressor, but that alone is $3,000. Then you've got to deal with high-pressure tanks and those cost a couple of grand to get. So you're better off using it as you need it.
But I have a whole video that does nothing but cover the storage of hydrogen, natural gas, methane, propane, syn gas, wood gas, producer gas and biofuel gas in propane tanks, scuba tanks, air tanks and bladders. I have a picture in the video of a bus in China with a great big bladder on top of it, literally half the size of the bus itself. In China and in England during World War II they would make the gas we're talking about, the producer gas, the wood gas, and they would store it in a bladder. They would put this on top of a vehicle and the weight of the bladder would cause enough pressure plus the engine would suck it out of the bladder as it needed it and they would drive for many miles, tens or 100 miles just on a bladder of gas.
So my video is called “The Fuels Video / Gaseous Fuels”. It's actually at and there's a link at that will send you right to the fuels video. That's like 95 minutes long and I cover every gas so you know the difference between hydrogen, methane, natural gas, carbon monoxide, hydrogen and wood gas/producer gas. Not only do you know the difference, but you know how much you can store in any of the containers I mentioned and you know how far you can drive if you were in a Chevrolet Chevette or a Ford pickup truck or a traditional car. It tells you how far you could drive off of each one of those fuels in each one of those containers. So I go into lots of detail with that.

Jack Spirko: Let me just ask you this so I can make sure that I'm thinking about these scenarios the right way. Let's say that I want to produce electricity for my house and I'm not going to shut the grid down but I want to cut my electric bill and I set one of these things up. It would seem reasonable to me that for some period every day I could go fire this thing up, run a generator off it, use that energy in my home the same way I would use a generator to bypass the grid in the first place. When I'm done with that for the day, I go back to using the grid and that should work just fine.

Steven Harris: Yes that would. And the way you would do that is to use the FEMA gasifier that is documented in Hydrogen Gas Generator Volume III and IV. You would use a 3000 watt or 5000 watt type of Coleman, Honda, TroyBilt, or Generac generator. If you've got a 5000-watt generator it would produce about 3000 watts max because, remember the gas is not as dense as gasoline. If you wanted 5000 watts you'd have to get an 8000 or 9000-watt generator. Remember it de-rates it a bit. But most of the time your house without AC is well less than a kilowatt. With air conditioning it could be 2-3 kilowatts, 2000 or 3000 watts.
So you would then hook up the generator to the FEMA gasifier. The generator, as it inhaled, it actually pulled air. Your air intake is before the gasifier, it pulls the air through the gasifier, gasifies it with the hot wood material. Wood chips is a great one to use and you can get wood chips from lawn service places. They'll say, “Well, how much do you want to take with you?” Just bring drums and bags and take them with you because the waste material they have to dispose of. So gasify that and then it gets drawn into the air intake of the generator along with air.
There's two valves you use, which are fully documented in the book. You don't need to change timing of the generator or anything because carbon monoxide burns at the same speed as gasoline does. There is a lot of carbon monoxide in this gas as well as hydrogen. It will just sit there and it will run it will boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. It will run at the right speed. It will adjust for its speed and load just like it does on gasoline.

Jack Spirko: What's the average cost of building one of these things? Let's leave the generator out because that's do you want a really good Honda or a cheap Sportsman's Guide brand. Just building this gasifier in your book, if I go out and buy all the stuff and do it, what's it going to set me back?

Steven Harris: Anywhere from tens of dollars to $100. It depends on how much you have to pay for your 33-gallon drum.

Jack Spirko: So it's not $5,000.

Steven Harris: No, it's like a 33-gallon metal drum, it's some sheet metal from Home Depot for the vertical column, it is a stainless steel colander –

Jack Spirko: So max a few hundred bucks. The reason I'm laughing is that I'm thinking about all these people that set up these little off-grid cabins and stuff like that. And they spend $5,000, $10,000 or more on solar photovoltaic panels that only work when the sun's out and maybe another $2,000 on a windmill. And they put this big battery bank up.
And I'm thinking not only could they run direct power when they've got their gasifier running with their generator, but they could set up the same battery bank with inverters in their little cabin that they would have for the solar array, forego the solar array, put a couple hundred bucks in this, run the dadgone thing during the day when you're up and about, keep feeding it once in a while, and also at the same time be charging that battery bank. When the thing shuts down at night you've got batteries through the night, and probably several days worth and it's far more efficient than a solar array panel.

Steven Harris: And it's far cheaper, but the thing is, and you know how much I really don't like solar photovoltaic –

Jack Spirko: You're the first person to say that on the show by the way and you've laid out a good case for why.

Steven Harris: Yeah, I don't like it, but in this vantage if you're setting up your retreat cabin, solar photovoltaics don't require you to go cut wood, chip it, load it into the gasifier, right.

Jack Spirko: Fair enough, go get it. But if I'm surrounded by 100 acres of wood with dead trees laying everywhere, I mean it's really not that far of a stretch. I guess again, we don't have to throw babies out with bath water, we could combine those two. We could throw up a couple of panels, maybe 500 watts, a couple 250-watt panels, and then supplement this with generator systems and wood. I'm big on redundancy. So now I have multiple ways to skin the cat.

Steven Harris: Two is one, one is none.

Jack Spirko: Absolutely! You're going to fit in well around here man. Is this all safe? I know there's people out there thinking right now, “I'm going to start making gas and storing it or even burning it. I'm going to blow something up.”

Steven Harris: Well, no, you're going to have to work really hard to blow something up. You need to follow standard precautions and safety rules. You don't want air or oxygen to get intermixed into your tank. I mean a cylinder of propane, if you shoot it, it doesn't blow up, it leaks propane and the propane catches on fire. It doesn't explode. The Hindenburg didn't explode, it combusted because the gas cells were full of hydrogen. If you look at it, it didn't go kapow, it just burned.

Jack Spirko: Being painted with thermite didn't help.

Steven Harris: Actually, it wasn't painted with thermite. It was painted with aluminum and it was painted with lacquer. Both of those are highly combustible on their own. People like to exaggerate the thermite thing, which I hold patents on. Either way, it didn't go kaboom, it burned. The same thing with a cylinder full of gas, it isn't going to go kaboom, there's no oxygen in it. There's no air in it. It's just a cylinder full of gas.
Now the thing you've got to be careful of is of course this is all outdoor stuff. It's not in your garage; it's outside of the garage. It's not in the house. You've not only the generator making carbon monoxide through combustion but your gasifier is expressly making carbon monoxide and hydrogen and it is really easy to make a whole bunch of carbon monoxide in an enclosed space. Then you start getting a headache and you can make enough of it, it can kill you.

Jack Spirko: And go to sleep and never wake up.

Steven Harris: Yeah, if you take a big enough inhale of carbon monoxide, you just fall over. So, safety precautions are covered in the books. There's not much is going to hurt you if you're outside in a well-ventilated area. Because again, most of the time you're making the gas and it's going right to the generator. You're not storing it, so you're not worried about air getting intermixed into it or anything else like that. And you dealing with things like hot and this is a nation where you get sued over a coffee cup at McDonald's.

Jack Spirko: (laughing) It didn't say “HOT” on the container so they didn't know it would be hot.

Steven Harris: So we're talking about this inside the middle of this reactor. I shouldn't say reactor, it's a fancy word. But inside of this sheet metal duct and salad bowl colander inside of a 33-gallon drum it's running at 1,200, 1,300, 1,400 degrees Fahrenheit. And the gas coming out can be hot. You've got to cool the gas; you've got to filter the gas.

Jack Spirko: So don't let stupid people with smart lawyers onto your property. That's probably the biggest safety advice there. And don't put it in your house, I mean we don't want to be asphyxiated. Let's talk a little bit about the kind that you would store though. Because I know there's a lot of people out there that are interested in the digestive type of gas, the methane that you produce for running, let's say a stove.

Steven Harris: Okay, the methane, the anaerobic digestion methane method of doing this is so easy. It's covered in two books I have. One book is called Biogas 1 & 2 and the other book is called Biogas 3. Biogas 1 & 2, which again is on, there's a link to it. The way you do it, you take a 55-gallon drum, you fill it up full of manure and water. And the more leaves and grass you can throw in the better.

Jack Spirko: I thought I saw these guys on YouTube and one of the things they were doing, they were going to places where they throw away like old fruit and stuff like that. They were throwing that in there through a garbage disposal.

Steven Harris: Sure, sure, dead animals off of the road, anything you want.

Jack Spirko: (laughing).

Steven Harris: You throw it in there, okay. So this is a 55-gallon drum full of the slurry. Then you take a 33-gallon drum, fits inside of a 55-gallon drum, you put a hose fitting on the bottom of the 33-gallon drum and you upend it into the 55-gallon drum until it sinks all the way. And then you close off the valve. What happens is it starts making gas, the 33-gallon drum rises up within the 55-gallon drum and the weight of the 33-gallon drum gives you your pressure to force your gas through the hose that goes to your stove, mantle or your lantern.
You asked me about how to you change things that run from natural gas over to methane-based biogas.

Jack Spirko: Yes.

Steven Harris: You either drill the holes a little bigger, which I don't recommend you do. All you do is just up the pressure. Instead of using natural gas coming out of your house, generally at 4 inches of water pressure, you just use a little bit more pressure coming off of your digester. Which is basically you put a brick on top of the cylinder.

Jack Spirko: So I add weight. So the digester itself creates the storage and I use weight to increase pressure. And how would Joe Sixpack who's building one of these things know what his pressure is? Is there like a basic gage on there and a line that's carrying it over to your – ?

Steven Harris: Manometer. You just take a piece of clear plastic tube and you make a “U” out of it. You zip-tie it to a yardstick and you fill it full of water and you plug it in. And you'll see the inches of displacement of the water. And really, you don't even need to do that. You just plug it into your stove and try to light it.

Jack Spirko: (laughing)

Steven Harris: “Oh, the flame's a little low. Honey, go put another brick on top of the barrel." And then it's like, okay fine, this is the right level. You can put a regulator valve, or any type of valve, in there so you can turn the pressure up and down by regulating the size of the hole in the valve. You can sit there – again there's a video of me doing this on my YouTube channel linked on You'll see a little picture of a mantle glowing and a big blue flame coming out of the pipe.

Jack Spirko: Wow, so you could just set up maybe two or three of these so you have them in rotation, you're using it as it's going. You could set that up, you could set up your generator and you could provide a tremendous amount of your own energy from things other people throw away.

Steven Harris: I wouldn't say a tremendous amount. I'd say a useable amount because you're talking about 95% water, 5% anything else in there. You're making a slurry. It's got to be a nice –

Jack Spirko: I'm talking about combing both methods. I'm talking about using the biogas for cooking and then using your wood gasification for energy and using those two in combination.

Steven Harris: You can use them back and forth. Now the second book I have, called Biogas 3, is how the Chinese did it. This book shows you how to dig a hole, I mean a pit, and then you line the pit with clay bricks or mud bricks and then you put a divider in the middle. You keep on pouring your biomass or your waste into one side and your digested fertilizer.
What happens, the byproduct of this is great fertilizer. So you dump into one side, the fertilizer comes out the other side and your gas comes out of the top. So the bigger way of doing it is the book, Biogas 3 and it's how the Chinese did it by digging a great big pit and they lined a pit with bricks. Or you can start off with a 55-gallon drum and a 33-gallon drum or a 30-gallon drum. They can be plastic. You can do this with plastic drums.

Jack Spirko: To me it's fascinating. I kind of want your opinion and this just ties back into what we started out talking about, your Project Destiny. If the country, I mean this is all neat stuff we can do at an individual level and I think it's what we should do now instead of waiting for someone else to do it for us. But at a national level if we got off our collective butts and made a real consorted effort to use these technologies, how much energy do you think we could create for ourselves as a country?

Steven Harris: Well, we are already using it on a massive scale, you just don't realize it. Every landfill is slowly digesting and methane comes off of it. In most landfills you'll see a flare of gas burning all the time, or if you don't then that means they've got a set of generators there using that gas to make electricity. And all of your wastewater treatment plants make methane by this way to self-power themselves.
I was talking to the people at Los Angeles, who have one of the biggest wastewater treatment plants that's in operation, makes the most methane. And I was saying, “You know what? If you people in California really wanted to recycle and take the waste food scraps and materials and to turn it into real energy, wouldn't you say all they really need to do is put it into the garbage disposal, grind it up and flush it down the sewer?” and he goes, “Yep, that's about it!” Because it will go through the pipes that already exist to the wastewater treatment plant and it will be digested and turned into methane. The more material they get like that the more methane they want.

Jack Spirko: So, we've been taught the exact opposite, we should be responsible for our own solid waste. But if you're tied into a plant that's doing that, effectively every time that apple core goes down there – now people like me want to put it in our compost bin because we get a direct result from it, but for other people it's actually helping it.

Steven Harris: It's actually helping it. People think it's wasteful. It's not wasteful. It's actually contributing to the methane generation at the wastewater treatment plant. There are three things responsible for humans living to an average age of, what is it, 77 today? The first one is clean water, as in drinking water treatment. The second thing is wastewater treatment so our fecal material does not contaminate us. The third thing responsible for us living so long is antibiotics. Those are the three things that allow our civilization to begin to exist the way we live in cities is fresh water, wastewater treatment, and if you do get infected, antibiotics.

Jack Spirko: Sure, because if you take away those, human beings cannot live at the population densities that we do today.

Steven Harris: That's right. And I would be remiss to not mention since this is The Survival Podcast, I have all of this and more in a completely free, famous, easy, proven family preparedness class. You can go get it for nothing. It's at just like it sounds, A link to it is also at I talk about great ways of doing food storage that you've never thought of before. It's all hands on, all DIY. We make emergency bread in 30 seconds.
I also have a video – I forgot to tell you, I have this great video called “Bread from Gasoline”. How many pounds of bread would a breadmaker make if a breadmaker would make bread off of a generator with one gallon of gasoline? So I took the complete opposite of what you'd think that you would do in a preparedness situation. Since we have power because we make our own power and generate our own power, I said want to make bread as easy as I wash clothes. Put stuff in, push a button, come back and it's done. I ended up making 32 pounds of bread, 16 two-pound loaves off of one gallon of gasoline.

Jack Spirko: Wow. (laughing)

Steven Harris: That's pretty good food and that's pretty cheap eating. That video is 98 minutes long; it's called “Bread from Gasoline." There's a link at But elements of that stuff is for free, completely for free in my “Before the Storm Hits” family preparedness class.
So once you're making your own energy, either through methane digestion, biomass gasification, solar photovoltaic panels – I have a video coming out in the future called “How to Power Your House from Your Car”. Once you get this set up you've got a basic amount of electricity you can then use these automated tools in a disaster that make things for you without you having to do it, like a breadmaker or a blender. You can use your microwave oven for a few minutes to heat something up. It turns everything that was useless back into being useful again!

Jack Spirko: So I am going to come back at you with the original question that got us off on this, though. Because you said we're doing a lot of stuff nationally right now with biogas, like the wastewater treatment plants and all. But clearly you don't think that's enough. You think we could do more. What more could we be doing as a society beyond the individual to create energy independence for us?


Jack Spirko: {laughing) Okay, you just went past Paul Wheaton as my favorite guest on this show. As we're getting close to wrapping I was going to tell you that I've learned more from interviewing you than any other guest. The only guy that's close was Wheaton. And at that point now you've just become my favorite person.

Steven Harris: (laughing)

Jack Spirko: Seriously, because I say that all the time quit ticking the “D” or the “R” box. Let's bring some new people in here to fix this crap and stop being stupid. But if we had the right people in and they were going to listen to you and you said here's some initiatives we could take, what would be some things you would suggest?

Steven Harris: As a country as a whole? Boy, Project Destiny comes to mind. But what can be done in your local area is – I mean I have books on every kind of energy you can think of and basically you can pick the flavor that you want and you can do it yourself to make your own energy and you become a demonstrator to your community. And this is a fabulous community. You're running your own community here.

Jack Spirko: Absolutely.

Steven Harris: You become a demonstrator to this community and you let other people repeat it. And someone says, “Hey! I got enough of this waste.” In my book Sunshine to Dollars I have a page called “Why Waste is Good”. I mean, every new business that's been started has been started off of a waste stream. When someone has too much of something and they don't know what to do with it you then use it and generally it turns into a business. Like you have a buddy who's in the landscape business and all he's doing is chipping trees all day and the city is giving him a hard time because his piles of wood chips are rotting. You're going, “I have the ability to take those and to turn those into electricity. And I'm going to then take that electricity and I'm going to sell it back to the grid.” Or, “I'm going to setup next to a business and sell it to the business and do peak shaving.”

Jack Spirko: So do you think a, what's the word I'm looking for? Like a decentralized model then is the best way to do this is? As many independents as possible generating power and then either selling it or using it or providing it?

Steven Harris: Yeah, in fact it's called – there is a word for it. It's local generation of power. The way we're going to be supplementing the larger base load plants, like the nuclear and the coal plants with smaller power generation that's off of natural gas, methane, landfill gas. That's being done now. But you're going to see more and more local generation of power set up in different areas to supplement the grid and the larger generation of this.
You can buy a 100 kilowatt generating plant that go on the back of a tractor-trailer semi on the used market and you can generate a heck of an amount of electricity and actually get into the energy business if you've got that waste stream of energy that you can just pick up for nothing, for the price of hauling it away.
So first take care of yourself and take care of your family and then you can begin to go off and conquer the world and change the world. But take care of yourself first, learn about it first. Do it yourself first and then take it in baby steps. And it will self-fund its way into its own business on its own.

Jack Spirko: Well folks, I think we've just found a new friend of the community in Mr. Steven Harris. I can't highly enough endorse his books. I know I'm going to pick them all up myself because there's here's so much knowledge there that I need to obtain, as Steve was saying for myself, for my own homestead, for what I'm doing here as a businessperson in the Hot Springs community.
Steven, man, thank you so much. This has been one of the best interviews I've ever done.

Steven Harris: It's a pleasure. And I have a very serious personal commitment to civil defense, homeland security, personal preparedness, personal survival, and I will be happy to come back any time and to speak at length on any of the subjects you and your listeners could want from my flavor of family preparedness that I teach all the way up to energy generation, solar. Any field of energy you want to speak to, to your community. I'm happy to come in and to give the expertise freely away to everyone so I help them. Again, all the show notes and stuff we talked about will be at

Jack Spirko: And of course, as always, at in the show notes for today's episode I'll have a link to that site and to all of Steven's site. You guys can get in there and post comments, ask questions. And that will probably be what leads to your next appearance, Steve, is as the community says, “Well, how do you do this?” and “How do you do that?” I go, “I don't know, let me get him back on.” So I think you'll be demanded a return trip by the audience and I always give in to the audience's demands because, let's face it, they're the folks that pay the bills around here. Man, again, thank you and I really appreciate the work you're doing to help empower people.

Steven Harris: Well, let's get that list of questions. Find out what people want to know and I'll come back and we'll answer them all. We'll get them all answers and then we'll another list of questions and we'll get them all taken care off and sent off in the right direction.

Jack Spirko: Awesome. Well, with that, I'm gonna wrap up folks. Today this has been Jack Spirko along with Steven Harris helping you figure out how to live that better life if times get tough, or even if they don't.
« Last Edit: May 01, 2012, 05:35:16 PM by Shadowrider »