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"I've halved my motoring costs since I started running my diesel Subaru on cooking oil. The car runs just as well and even smells a lot better than diesel."
October 10, 2002 7:58 AM   Subscribe

"I've halved my motoring costs since I started running my diesel Subaru on cooking oil. The car runs just as well and even smells a lot better than diesel."

The police 'Frying Squad' are on the case and "home in on any car smelling like a mobile fish and chip shop". Other than the dreadful puns, are there other reasons why we shouldn't all run our cars on Mazola?
posted by niceness (42 comments total)

 
Oilfilter.
posted by madprops at 8:08 AM on October 10, 2002


You shouldn't if you're not driving a diesel.
posted by jonah at 8:13 AM on October 10, 2002


More about biofuels, in case you're interested...
posted by Fabulon7 at 8:13 AM on October 10, 2002


dude, they hone in.
posted by xmutex at 8:23 AM on October 10, 2002


Fabulon - as I was looking around I came across this and this but didn't post because I wasn't sure whether they were the same thing.

Is it really just a case of adding a little methanol to sunflower oil? There must be black-market blaggers all over the UK who have just decided to stop hijacking petrol tankers.
posted by niceness at 8:25 AM on October 10, 2002


When you work out the costs honestly (as opposed to the people in the leading link), biodiesel is three to five times more expensive than petrodiesel ($2.50 to $3.00 vs $0.60 to $0.70 per gallon). Brazil has gone broke over the past decade trying to get a similar fuel ethanol project to work.

Also, the "closed-carbon-loop" statements are misleading. They do not include the energy used to grow the crop, make the fertilizer, etc... in the first place.

Biodiesel may have a place a way to use waste product, but will probably never be viable as a primary fuel source, unless these folk rough up a few more corn-belt senators.
posted by bonehead at 8:28 AM on October 10, 2002


Also, if you want to cut vegetable oil with something, use ethers rather than alcohols. They work much better. Your engine will thank you.
posted by bonehead at 8:32 AM on October 10, 2002


So they're nailing these people because they're evading fuel taxes? That's ridiculous!

Now, if they're leaving greasy streaks on all the streets, that's another thing...
posted by me3dia at 8:34 AM on October 10, 2002


I heard this guy on the CBC this morning. He recycles all the cooking fat on the UBC campus and he's just landed a contract to supply the groundskeepers with biodiesel to power their lawnmowers and such.
posted by timeistight at 8:44 AM on October 10, 2002


Is biodiesel actually "ecofriendly"? How are the emissions? Regular diesel is really dirty and has been implicated in causing a whoppingly disproportionate share of airborne related disease.
posted by troutfishing at 8:48 AM on October 10, 2002


What I find interesting isn't that their running cars on cooking oil (I drive unleaded, so it's no difference to me, I'll fill my tank at the nearest reservation either way). It's that these drivers are having their cars impounded not for violating any emissions standards, noise regulations, or making the roads unsafe in any way. They're losing their cars for finding a way around fossil fuels, since the government loses it's cut.
posted by Kellydamnit at 8:52 AM on October 10, 2002


me3dia: You have to pay tax on the fuel used to power your vehicle. Petrol, deisel, LPG & electricity are all taxed in the UK but cooking oil - a food - isn't.

The UK has some of the highest fuel taxes in the world...all to do with the number of cars per head/population density and trying to discourage car overuse etc.

The whole fuel tax/transport issue rumbles on over here. The problem partly stems from the lack of investment in the transport infrastructure over the past 30 years (unlike most of the rest of Europe) and the encouragement given for private car ownership over the same period. Add in the proliferation of out-of-town shopping developments there's a problem to be solved.

Gas costs about $2 per gallon over here BTW.
posted by i_cola at 8:54 AM on October 10, 2002


home in -- probably derived from navigating a ship to a home port. hone -- to sharpen, as a knife, or skills.

This doesn't necessarily scale well. Some bioenergy conversion factors. Back of the envelope: Taking a 5-ton yield per acre, equivalent to around 200 GJ (gigajoules), you could replace approximately 35 barrels of oil annually. The US consumes some 19-20M barrels every day. To replace a single day's national consumption of petroleum, or approximately 1/3 of 1% of our annual energy needs, you would need to devote 570,000 acres to biodiesel production, out of some 300 million acres nationwide. To reduce foreign oil dependence by 10%, e.g. about 5% of our annual consumption, some 10 million acres, or the approximate amount of farmland in the entire state of Kentucky.
posted by dhartung at 8:58 AM on October 10, 2002


Gas costs about $2 per gallon over here BTW.

Don't know where you get that figure from, i_cola. 79.3 pence a litre at US$1.56 to the UK pound works out to about US$4.75 per US gallon (=3.785 litres).
posted by rory at 9:04 AM on October 10, 2002


rory: I meant to type 5 not 2 - damn deadlines...
posted by i_cola at 9:12 AM on October 10, 2002


$5.00 a gallon? Cool. I bet the cars over there get great mileage.
posted by mecran01 at 9:17 AM on October 10, 2002


Fair enough - just didn't want our American friends paying $1.43 a gallon to get the wrong impression.
posted by rory at 9:17 AM on October 10, 2002


I bet the cars over there get great mileage.

[Second earthquake in as many weeks triggered by UK readers of MeFi falling en masse to ground and ROTFL.]
posted by rory at 9:20 AM on October 10, 2002


The UK has some of the highest fuel taxes in the world.. .....trying to discourage car overuse etc.

Sorry for the bold, but that is what I thought the tax was for, limiting cars and pollutants. But they are saying by this crack down that they only want their cut of the pie. If your not polluting then being penalized does not sound like common sense here. Sure the road you use, but I'm sure your taxed other ways too for them. I had a diesel car, and even though it had blacker exhaust does anyone no which polutes more, a gasoline engine or diesel? By the way I will never buy an American made diesel car until I see it done right like the Germans and others.

In the US we have a tax on fuel already added in per gallon, last I saw was around 46 cents per gallon not per $ amount but have not seen it posted on the pumps lately (??) anyone know what I speak of.

Goes to show the price the government wants us to pay for luxuries. Even if you drive a fry baby.........what's the new bribe to offer an officer?.... Would you care for chips or onion rings with your fish, Sir.
posted by thomcatspike at 9:27 AM on October 10, 2002


you have to pay tax on the fuel used to power your vehicle. Petrol, deisel, LPG & electricity are all taxed in the UK but cooking oil - a food - isn't

i_cola / kellydamnit - the reason these guys are getting nicked is it IS taxed if you want to stick it in your car -

from the Hydrocarbon Oil Duties Act 1979

section 6AA Excise duty on biodiesel

(1) A duty of excise shall be charged on the setting aside for a chargeable use by any person, or (where it has not already been charged under this section) on the chargeable use by any person, of biodiesel.

(2) In subsection (1) “chargeable use” means use—

(a) as fuel for any engine, motor or other machinery, or
(b) as an additive or extender in any substance so used.

Cooking all is covered by the definition of biodiesel.

(the rate of duty under this section is currently £0.2582 a litre)
posted by tucola at 9:30 AM on October 10, 2002


mecran01: Basically, yes.

A Toyota RAV4 (for all you SUV lovers) will get nearly 40 mpg altho' that is Imperial not US gallons. (1 US Gal = .833 Imperial)

This slightly fun UK Govt. site let's you find various types of fuel data for cars.

tom: I think they want both. Customs & Excise (for it is they) are never going to pass up revenue.

tucola: [brother?!] Indeed...they dodge the tax by buying for food use (untaxed) & then using for fuel.
posted by i_cola at 9:40 AM on October 10, 2002


Brazil has gone broke over the past decade trying to get a similar fuel ethanol project to work.

Brazil does have an ethanol biofuel program as well as a vegetable oil biofuel program. Ethanol and vegetable oil are very different fuels, and are produced differently. In fact, in the USA you probably already have burned ethanol in your gasoline vehicle, and there are millions sold every year that can burn up to 85% ethanol.
posted by Eekacat at 9:43 AM on October 10, 2002


i_cola: Yeh. Crazy that if you stick it in your car it does become liable to tax tho', eh?

It's kind of like if a short adult person wears children's clothes (which are not susceptible to value added tax here in England) - and the customs and excise pounce on him for tax evasion - wait a sec, I've probably given them ideas!
posted by tucola at 9:48 AM on October 10, 2002


Well, sort of, i_cola - the same kind of RAV4 gets the same fuel consumption in the US (30 UK mpg = 25 US mpg)... it's just that they don't appear to sell a 1.8 litre model (38.2 UK mpg/31.8 US mpg) in the US.

There's clearly some market pressure for more fuel-efficient vehicles here in the UK, but the cars here are nothing like three times as fuel efficient as in the US, which is what they'd have to be to counteract the price differences.
posted by rory at 10:20 AM on October 10, 2002


dhartung -
I don't think there's any shortage of unused farmland, or farmers for that matter, in the states. You could really kill two birds with one stone with this.
posted by badstone at 10:28 AM on October 10, 2002


Can someone from England run this by me, because it has me very confused... how is not paying taxes on something you're not buying a crime?

I mean, from what I'm reading, the article says that it's a crime to avoid paying the regulated taxes on oil. Fine. Tax evasion is a crime.

But say, for example, you didn't go to the pump today... doesn't that mean you're not paying taxes on your oil as well? If you don't own a television in the U.K., are you perpetrating the act of evading your license fee?

In other words, just because you've found an alternative to regular oil, be it biofuel or simply nothing at all, how is the identical result of simply not purchasing oil to pay taxes on an illegal activity?
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 10:30 AM on October 10, 2002


Eekacat: It's telling that Brazil is now positioning the alcohol fuel project as a Kyoto emissions-reduction measure rather than as a viable economic one. Ethanol gasoline (10% v/v) is widely available in my neighbourhood, but at a significant price premium.

Oil and ethanol are different, but they will both come from the same crops. In NA, these are corn and soy. From the numbers I've seen (sorry, they're in hc only), very large subsidies would be necessary to make "corn diesel" competitive with petrodiesel. ADM would be happy, but very few taxpayers would be.
posted by bonehead at 10:39 AM on October 10, 2002


XQUZYPHYR, the key is in the act that tucola quoted, which basically says that using biodiesel to run an 'engine, motor or other machinery' requires the payment of excise on that biodiesel (which includes cooking oil). If you buy biodiesel from a fuel supplier, the excise will have been included in the price you paid. If you buy it in cooking oil containers off the shelf at a supermarket, no fuel excise has been included in the shelf-price, because the product is not normally used as fuel. Unless you front up at Customs and Excise and hand them a cheque for the excise you owe them once you use the stuff to run your car, you're tax-evading.
posted by rory at 10:41 AM on October 10, 2002


but the cars here are nothing like three times as fuel efficient as in the US

I thought the opposite, as it seems the UK and Europe are more likely to use efficient engines designs for lack of oil fuels. I didn't realize it was only by the size that this was happening, they don't appear to sell a 1.8 litre model (38.2 UK mpg/31.8 US mpg) in the US..

In my opinion because the car companies and fuel companies are in it together. In over a 100 years we have done little in making more efficient motors available other than, an alternative. I'm not knocking alternatives and think they are great for going from point a to b, for work or errands. But riding in an electric car just misses something, vroom! vroom!
I love, yet don't own a muscle cars of the 60's, so I'm a gas hog by love.
posted by thomcatspike at 11:03 AM on October 10, 2002


Here in Iowa you can get 89 octane stuff with a little ethnol for the exact same price (and sometimes lower) then 87 octane stuff without it. I guess due to some kind of government subsidy.

Anyway, I don't see why people shouldn't have to pay taxes on vegitable oil if they run their cars off of it. I would think that they would polute as much, if not more.
posted by delmoi at 11:22 AM on October 10, 2002


Bonehead: I just didn't want people to confuse the "Fry-mobile" with ethanol fuels. As far as subsidies go, I don't see a huge outcry against the farm bill our President recently signed continuing and expanding farm subsidies. I don't like it very much, and it seems we could target that money better. We are already making the corporate farms very happy....
posted by Eekacat at 11:41 AM on October 10, 2002


<troll>
What would a Brit need a car for, anyway? The entire island is so damn small you can walk one end to the other in an afternoon...
</troll>
(Canada's Really Big)
posted by five fresh fish at 11:54 AM on October 10, 2002


delmoi: Your gasohol is indeed subsidized. In effect, your tax dollars are being used to pay half the cost of production. Biodiesel is worse---subsidies would have to double or triple for it to be cost-competitive with regular diesel.

Biodiesel production is NOT an environmental benefit. It is a mirage. It is a net loss, of benefit only to the agri-food multinationals. Biodiesel is only worthwhile as a marginal method for recycling food waste.
posted by bonehead at 12:34 PM on October 10, 2002


i have a friend here in texas who converted his 85 VW vanagon from diesel to cooking oil and he said he just stops by the local restaurant and asks for their used oil and then pours it through a filter and into his tank. it must be working good b/c he drives it to all of our VW meetings.

in the states we don't believe in charging high taxes on fuel for our cars - cheap fuel is our god given right and it doesn't matter how much it impacts the rest of the world that we all drive so much and get terrible mpg b/c... "the american way of life is a very privelaged way of life, and we must protect it" - G W Bush (my favorite quote from our fearless leader)
posted by ggggarret at 12:45 PM on October 10, 2002


Veggie Van
posted by mecran01 at 12:56 PM on October 10, 2002


GGGgarret + GW Bush = Great Thinkers
posted by bureaustyle at 1:32 PM on October 10, 2002


Also, if you want to cut vegetable oil with something, use ethers rather than alcohols. They work much better. Your engine will thank you.

But your groundwater will hate you.
posted by euphorb at 1:34 PM on October 10, 2002


bureaustyle + inability to recognize sarcasm = embarrassingly snide posts

Um.
As for the issue at hand, yes, the people using biodiesel as a fuel without paying fuel-level taxes on it are breaking a law. So they should sort of expect to be nailed for that, much like breaking the speed limit. You can argue the relative merits of the law, I suppose, but if you have no problem with the tax on regular gasoline, it seems weird to be miffed about one on cooking-oil-as-gasoline. Re: biodiesel, as a society-wide thing, biodiesel is, at best, a handy way to maintain our current petrophilic structure once the petroleum runs out.
posted by kavasa at 3:42 PM on October 10, 2002


Crazy that if you stick it in your car it does become liable to tax tho', eh?

No more than regular diesel, which is after all exactly the same fuel as heating oil. The main difference is, they put red coloring in the heating oil. That way, when they inspect your 18-wheeler (which is mandated by law to have some part of the fuel line transparent) they can tell whether you're using fuel diesel (and thus have paid the tax) or heating oil (and are thus evading the tax). Fuel-grade diesel also has lower sulfur content and, in colder months, usually has kerosene in it.
posted by kindall at 4:02 PM on October 10, 2002


badstone:

dhartung - I don't think there's any shortage of unused farmland, or farmers for that matter, in the states. You could really kill two birds with one stone with this.

Your wasting your time on dhartung, he seems to think everyone should drive a Ford Expedition, to prop up the Saudis I suppose.

Back Bin Laden! Drive an SUV!

Too bad Ford doesn't dare back a hempmobile. It might actually get me to buy one of their poorly built piece of shit people movers.
posted by mark13 at 4:26 PM on October 10, 2002


Anyway, I don't see why people shouldn't have to pay taxes on vegetable oil if they run their cars off of it. I would think that they would pollute as much, if not more

If the taxes were based on pollution, which they are not (and even if they were, biodiesel does in fact pollute less, so the tax would be lower for them). And we all know how much England spends on its transportation system, so you can't claim the money is needed to pay for the roads either. It might not be economically feasible to switch entirely to biofuel, but it makes sense to encourage it, either through tax breaks (or just loopholes left open) or directly by using it in public transportation, at least enough to use the available waste cooking oil.
posted by Nothing at 10:49 PM on October 10, 2002


sounds to me like someone's pissed that people figured out a loophole, regardless of any evnironmental or economical effects....
posted by sarguy at 3:12 AM on October 11, 2002


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