Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Alternative fuel user pays an unexpected price

Thinking about striking a blow for energy independence by modifying your car or truck to run on vegetable oil? Why not. There are millions of gallons of used veggie oil heading to landfills every day from the bazillions of fast-food fry pits across America. Why not divert some of it to a better fate? Why continue to shell out money to the sheiks when you can switch to the fuel that burns good, smells good and is made right here in the ole U.S. of A?

Charlotte, NC musician Bob Teixeira did. He paid $1200 to convert his 1981 diesel Mercedes. He skipped the fry pits and bought soybean in 5-gallon jugs at Costco, spending about 30 percent more than diesel would cost. And what did it get him?

Would you believe a $1,000 fine for not paying state motor fuel taxes? Bob's been told to expect an additional $1,000 from the feds and, if he wants to get legal, North Carolina will oblige him but first he has to get a $2,500 bond.

A June 9 story in the Charlotte Observer details Bob's experience and his decision to pay the fine, get his bond, and keep on burning veggie oil.

So what about you? Are you ready to dump the gas pump?

The greasecar website can tell you how much a conversion kit will cost for your vehicle. Not mechanically inclined? No problem. It lists five certified installers in New York and one in Philadelphia. Sorry, no listings so far for New Jersey.

Know of anyone who's made the switch in the tri-state area? And what about our state laws? Will governors Corzine, Rendell and Spitzer expect their fair share in highway taxes? Are there bonds, permits, special fees or other financial hurdles to clear?

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