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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Frybrid Fuel

Posted By on Wed, Feb 18, 2009 at 5:40 PM

If Kevin Herschman blew your mind wide open in this week's greenlight on veggie fuel, check out Inhabitat's comprehensive article and guide on running your vehicle on vegetable oil. It's a potentially time-consuming, surgical process, but hey, you can't complain about the aromatic, french-fry exhaust smell in a city prepared to fry anything.

But here's the problem:

The Environmental Protection Agency> has said that running cars on vegetable oil, converting cars to run on vegetable oil, and selling vegetable oil for use in cars are all illegal activities that are punishable by fines: “Raw vegetable oil or recycled greases (also called waste cooking oil) that have not been processed into esters are not biodiesel, and are not registered by EPA for legal use in vehicles. In addition, vehicles converted to use these oils would likely need to be certified by the EPA; to date EPA has not certified any conversions,” the agency’s web site says.

The EPA says the prohibition is because more emissions research is needed. Veggie oil has been shown to have lower emissions of particulates and CO2, but a higher emission of nitrogen oxide. The EPA also says that “cooking oil is physically and chemically different than diesel fuel and its use in conventional engines will generally cause negative effects on emissions and engine durability.”

It’s uncommon to get in trouble, but it still happens. A man in Charlotte, NC was fined $1,000 last year for using veggie oil. Bob Teixeira’s “100% veggie oil” sticker attracted the attention of state officials who were checking for illegal fuels. The state fined him for avoiding the $.299 cent per gallen gas tax and told him he needed to pay a $2,500 bond for small fuel users. In the end, the state compromised on the fine and asked legislators to waive the $2,500 bond.

(Side note: Why is the EPA's Web site way easier to navigate than that of any other government agency? I'm looking at you, Louisiana Legislature Search.)

But that's not to say the EPA is against home conversions for biodiesel — as long as you don't mind a bit of paperwork.

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