You will never see
us arriving
at a job sight
loaded with
5 gallon buckets
of rusty tools
attempting to
"wing it"

— Mark Armstrong

North Bay Bohemian

Best person to teach you how to get your car off gas and running on coffee grounds, sunlight, poop, shrimp shells and other more sustainable alternative fuels.

Mark Armstrong’s alternative fuels class at SRJC, Auto 190.1, is more than your average grease-monkey class. Much more. Armstrong, a diesel mechanic by day, educates students about the plethora of innovative and sustainable sources of energyother than oil that can be used not only for powering our beloved cars, but for generating alternative-energy sources in a post-oil world. Even converting 50 percent of the United State’s vehicles to diesel—no longer slow and stinky thanks to advancements in diesel technology—would save us 2 million barrels of oil a day. Then there are bio-diesel, electric, solar and hybrid vehicles, slowly replacing the inefficient and unsustainable gasoline car. Rather than waiting for the government to solve our problems, or a mysterious “someone else” to figure out how to ease us off deaddinosaur goo before the supply is exhausted, Armstrong entertains every idea, no matter how seemingly absurd it might seem at first.

Armstrong is an affable, easygoing guy who also runs a lab companion to his lecture class, where students put into action and test various low- and high-tech technologies, trying to work out the downsides and challenges of alternative fuels. He’s also the faculty adviser to the 100 Mile Per Gallon Club, which doesn’t and never has had any members because none of his students has figured out yet how to achieve that kind of vehicle mileage. But it doesn’t stop Armstrong from putting the challenge out there. (After all, Volkswagen achieved 234 mpg with a one-cylinder, three-wheel diesel concept car.) But again, it’s about more than just cars: Armstrong is thinking and experimenting big. He says that he shares with his students “alternative energy technologies, and how these technologies are becoming incorporated into the designs of heavy and light duty trucks, equipment, rail systems, power generation, shipping.”

“Just because there are problems or challenges with every single alternative fuel,” Armstrong repeats to each class like a mantra, “doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do anything about making the energy transition we need to make.”—M.P.