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Brew Your Own Auto Fuel For 41 Cents A Gallon 991

Posted by michael
from the would-you-like-fries-with-that? dept.
Iphtashu Fitz writes "Damon Toal-Rossi of Iowa City, Iowa had enough of the high price of gasoline, so it didn't take too much for his friend to talk him into switching to biodiesel, an alternative fuel based on soy or vegetable oil. But after a few months of driving 10 miles to a biodiesel fuel station he decided it was time to start brewing his own. It didn't take him long to find a recipe for biodiesel, and with used cooking oil that he gets for free from a nearby restaurant, he figures he's now getting 44 miles per gallon out of his diesel powered VW Golf and only paying 41 cents a gallon. According to the National Biodiesel Board the number of biodiesel stations in the US rose by 50% last year (to a whopping 200). The president of the American Soybean Association claims biodiesel has almost the same amount of energy as petroleum-based diesel, but cleans an engine's fuel injectors and cuts down on the number of required oil changes. Perhaps these are some of the reasons why diesel powered cars are making a comeback in the US."
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Brew Your Own Auto Fuel For 41 Cents A Gallon

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  • Great... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SoTuA (683507) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @03:37PM (#9306956)
    ...as long as you:

    a) Have a diesel car.

    b) Have somebody who will give you free used oil.

    Not all of us live nearby KFC :)

    • Re:Great... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @03:42PM (#9307035)
      Actually, getting free used oil is easier than you think owing to:

      a) Any restaurant that does frying has used oil. (Even that mom'n'pop boutique place you like to frequent)

      b) Restaurants normally have to pay someone to have their used oil hauled away.
      • Re:Great... (Score:5, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @03:47PM (#9307125)
        "b) Restaurants normally have to pay someone to have their used oil hauled away."

        Not anymore -- most restaraunts get money back for recycling purposes...some have even proscecuted folks that have taken their cooking oil because while it makes very little money -- it is still a few hundred $$$s a month for them.
        • Re:Great... (Score:5, Funny)

          by 17028 (122384) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @03:54PM (#9307252)
          They recycle vegetable oil?? Right, tell me what restaurants are using recycled oil please. I'm not eating there!
        • by poptones (653660) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @04:36PM (#9307844) Journal
          I don't know any places around here that get paid when someone hauls off their used vegetable oil and there's a whole mile of fast food places just around the corner from where I sit. And recycling it is NOT just a simple matter of "filtering it." Vegetable oil is an organic product that does not last forever. It WILL go rancid and using it for cooking speeds up this process greatly. About the only way you could keep up this process of use and recycle is if you were born without a sense of smell (or just without sense period).

          Some used cooking oil does get filtered and shipped abroad for use in food products. But most places I know (including mcd, bk, kfc etc) still have to arrange to have it hauled off and the best they can manage so far is to break even.

      • Re:Great... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by fshalor (133678) <fshalor@[ ]cast.net ['com' in gap]> on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @03:51PM (#9307211) Homepage Journal
        Then you need an:
        a.) Filtering system.

        b.) Luck.

        It would be interesting to test the effectiveness of conventional diesl car/truck filters.

        Also, note:
        2007 Toyota will be releasing a full sized 200+ HP hybrid diesel electric Tundra.

        Sounds like a shoein for the biodeisel market:) I just hope it comes with a stick shift.
        • Re:Great... (Score:5, Informative)

          by Your Anus (308149) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @04:41PM (#9307917) Journal
          I would worry less about the fuel filter and more about the plastic parts in fuel system dissolving. A number of them are made of plastics that are great in gasoline, M85, and regular dead-dinosaur diesel, but will melt away in Biodiesel, especially the European stuff made out of rapeseed oil. I think it's safe to say you will void your warranty if you use this stuff. Yes, I work in automotive fuel systems.
          • Re:Great... (Score:4, Interesting)

            by gotih (167327) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @08:15PM (#9310325) Homepage
            i think he was refering to the filter used when producing bio-diesel.

            biodiesel is routienely stored in plastic containers made of (i think) PETE and all diesel engines in production today are designed to accept bio-diesel by using teflon (instead of rubber) hoses. the main engine concern about using biodiesel is the sodium hydroxide (lye) content of the fuel which can destroy rubber parts.

            when you make biodiesel you wash the fuel with water by misting water into a vat of fuel. the water collects lye as it decends to the bottom of the tank where it is drained out.
    • Live? (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      "Not all of us live nearby KFC :)"

      What do you mean 'live', buy one of their buckets and pour the gallon grease at the bottom right into your car.

      I love the Colonial.
    • Re:Great... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by sunking2 (521698) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @03:47PM (#9307131)
      Bingo, it's great while there are only a half dozen people who try it per town. As soon as more than one person goes and asks an owner for their used oil guess what? No more free used oil. Crude oil prices are what they are because it's a traded commodity, not because it's hard to get or difficult to refine. What people are willing to pay is what dictates the price, not the threat of running out.

      Create a demand and like everything else, prices will rise.

      Not that I'm totally against the idea, but you can't base the impact on a real economy on a test case of a few people here and there.
      • Re:Great... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Hard_Code (49548) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @03:55PM (#9307268)
        Except that biodeisel is renewable and probably doesn't carry as many nasty political ramifications as fossil fuel.
        • Re:Great... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Otter (3800) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @04:13PM (#9307511) Journal
          I think his point is that the 41 cent figure is completely meaningless when he's getting the raw material for free. (Although, don't restaurants sell their used grease to recyclers? That was the case in my fast food days, long ago.)

          On the other hand, if biodiesel takes off there will be an economy of scale that will offset the increasing demand for restaurant grease. KFC and Long Jon Silver's will still have price increases, though.

        • Re:Great... (Score:3, Informative)

          by DuckDodgers (541817)
          Yeah, but then you get nonsense like this [slashdot.org], wherein an environmental scientist writes up a beautiful plan for making Biodiesel for the whole US and then carefully downplays the fact that the cost per gallon exceeds $4.00 before you even ship the product to a fueling station

          This kind of thing only works if it's cheap, and it's only cheap for this guy because so few other people do it.
        • Re:Great... (Score:5, Informative)

          by sterno (16320) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @04:28PM (#9307747) Homepage
          Biodiesel is renewable, yes, but it all has to come from somewhere. How much soy, or what have you needs to be grown to make a gallon of biodiesel? Is there enough arable land to make enough fuel to run the world economy in place of petroleum?

          -It's about 12.5 gallons/year for one acre of Soy from what I could find.
          -There's 470 million acres of arable land in the US.
          -Average gas usage/person in the us is 1,050 gallons per year
          -US population is 293 million

          So, maximum output is 5.875 billion gallons of diesel/year. Usage is somewhere around 297 billion gallons of gasoline/year. SO it's not possible to completely replace gasoline with soy.

          The other thing is that oil prices are relatively stable over time because the extraction process is fairly predicatable. They know how much is in the ground, how much is left, and how much it will cost to get it out. With a farmed fuel, the weather, from year to year can cause potentially large swings in price.

          • Re:Great... (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Ralph Wiggam (22354) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @04:52PM (#9308082) Homepage
            The 470 million arable acres is for everything, not just soy beans, right?

            So the US could stop growing corn, wheat, and everything else in order to provide a whopping 2 percent of our gasoline?

            Here's a crazy idea. Why don't we use less gas.

            -B
          • Re:Great... (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Phurd Phlegm (241627) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @05:13PM (#9308377)
            Hmmm. This reference [veggievan.org] claims 100 gallons per acre, and I saw another than claimed 145. Also, "gas usage" != "Diesel usage," since Diesels are usually more efficient. However, 100*4.7e8 = 4.7e10. Divided by US population is around 160. Allowing for the fact that we need to eat something that's still only on the order of a tenth of the amount we're burning now.

            Myself and my three kids use only around 140 gal/year per each even with three cars--I assume that the 1000 gallon figure includes heating, manufacturing, shipping, and so forth? I have no way of evaluating whether the correct figure is near 12 or 150 gal/acre.

      • by Greyfox (87712) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @04:10PM (#9307474) Homepage Journal
        Yep! It's like fish heads. Right now you can find fish heads for free if you ask around to various local groceries. As soon as all those outsourced IT workers realize that for the same price as ramen, they could be eating ramen with fish heads, that market will dry up faster than a dead coyote in death valley.
      • Re:Great... (Score:3, Insightful)

        by joshmccormack (75838)
        Not entirely true.
        • Waste vegetable oil costs money to dispose of. A lot of vegetable oil is used and disposed of, so there's a supply. (diners, chinese restaurants, take out places, etc)
        • Crude oil has to be removed from the Earth. It's often under deep water, miles below frozen, rocky Earth, or below people who want a lot of money for it.
        • It's doubtful demand will increase substantially. Car manufacturers are not quick to change, and they seem to be pretty comfortable making gas guzzlers. Diesels have a re
        • Re:Great... (Score:3, Informative)

          by DuckDodgers (541817)
          Right, but it's a question of scale.

          According to the article linked in this slashdot discussion [slashdot.org], the US uses the equivalent of about 141 billion gallons of diesel fuel per year.

          That's around 500 gallons per person in the country. You'd need a thousand times as many restaurant fryers to come up with that much vegetable oil.
    • Re:Great... (Score:4, Funny)

      by Snowmit (704081) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @04:47PM (#9308004) Homepage
      If you aren't living near a fast food restaurant, you probably aren't living in North America.
  • My next truck.. (Score:3, Informative)

    by dustinbarbour (721795) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @03:39PM (#9306987) Homepage
    My next truck is going to have a diesel engine. Gasoline is simply too expensive. Diesel has always been less expensive with or without home-brewing it. My guess is that I'll be makign the purchase in two years or so.
  • How's it smell? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mdwebster (158623) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @03:39PM (#9306989)
    I've heard it makes your car exhaust smell like french fries ... Not that there's anything wrong with that ...
    • by smackjer (697558) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @03:42PM (#9307031) Homepage
      Yeah, but now our freedom fries are going to smell like exhaust!
    • You can also get your source oil from Krispy Kreme... Mmmm, donuts!
    • Re:How's it smell? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by FortKnox (169099)
      Which is why you get your grease at dunkin donuts or tim hortons. Mmmmm.... donuts.... EVERY TIME YOU DRIVE! ;-)
    • fat chicks (Score:3, Funny)

      by millahtime (710421)
      Yeah, I have a problem. You may have fat chicks chasing down your car.



      I know it's not PC to say that but oh well.
    • Re:How's it smell? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Adriax (746043)
      Taking that into account, I'm surprised McDonalds and all the other fast food places aren't doing everything in their power to promote biodiesel. It's another great advertising avenue, and they could make money by selling biodiesel made from their exaust.
    • by Oliver Wendell Jones (158103) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @04:01PM (#9307357)
      I wasn't trying to kill myself, your honor. I started the car and noticed the smell of donuts and figured that the kids had left some in the back seat, so I went looking for them and well, the next thing I remember is the paramedics leaning over me, telling me I should have opened the garage door first...
    • Re:How's it smell? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by dhovis (303725) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @04:06PM (#9307419)
      I've heard it makes your car exhaust smell like french fries ... Not that there's anything wrong with that ...

      Actually, there is. If you have complete combustion, then you would not be able to smell the exhaust, you would only be left with CO2 and H2O. If your exhaust smells like the source fuel, then you are putting unburned hydrocarbons into the atmosphere. Unburned hydrocarbons are one of the principle components of smog. Ask anyone who lived in LA during the 50's and they will tell you about how your eyes would start burning when you walked outside.

      Is diesel less expensive to use? Yes. Does it come anywhere near the clean combustion of a good gas engine with a catalytic converter? No. There are some new exhaust systems that bring diesel up to the cleanliness of gasoline, but only if you are using low sulphur diesel, and they add about $3000 to the cost of the car, and are not required yet.

  • by Danathar (267989) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @03:40PM (#9306994) Journal
    Just think....

    McDonalds could outfit all of their trucks with used French Fry Oil...and then evertime you saw one pass you'd smell that wonderful French Fry Aroma!

    Seriously......They COULD do this!

  • by sulli (195030) * on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @03:40PM (#9306996) Journal
    Biodiesel is only $0.41/gallon if your time is worth nothing.

    Sounds like a fun project though. The warnings about the various poisons certainly got my attention.

  • Daryl Hannah (Score:4, Informative)

    by olivermoffat (211767) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @03:40PM (#9307003)
    See also the Grassolean [grassolean.com] folks featuring "Grease Grrrl", Daryl Hannah.
  • Clean?! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by AKAImBatman (238306) <akaimbatmanNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @03:41PM (#9307007) Homepage Journal
    claims biodiesel has almost the same amount of energy as petroleum-based diesel, but cleans an engine's fuel injectors and cuts down on the number of required oil changes.

    Have these people seen the crap-for-oil that comes out of most restaurants? That stuff is fully oxidized, saturated with carbon, mixed with salt, and diluted by water! How anyone could expect it to clean anything is beyond me.

    • Re:Clean?! (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @03:51PM (#9307194)
      Petrol and cooking oil are not the same type of hydrocarbon (they don't have the same number of carbon atoms in the chain). For whatever reason, using high concentrations of biodiesel has a solvent effect. If you have a diesel car or truck that has been running on dino-diesel for a long time and suddenly switch to B100 (100% bio-d, chances are high that you'll have to get a new fuel filter because the bio-d will break up all the crud that has accumulated in the fuel tank and deposit it into your filter, clogging it.

      And when using waste oil for bio-d, you do have to process and clean it before putting it in your car's fuel tank.
    • Re:Clean?! (Score:5, Funny)

      by maxbang (598632) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @03:55PM (#9307269) Journal

      ...and diluted by water

      Would this have anything to do with people like my friends and me throwing massive chunks of ice into the fryers while working at Wendy's in high school? There's nothing quite like watching (and hearing) a deep fryer exploding with gigantic scalding bubbles of grease. However, I'm thinking your water-diluted grease gets the water after it's cooled.

  • The tax man cometh (Score:5, Interesting)

    by hwstar (35834) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @03:41PM (#9307012)
    Don't be too surprised if you find a line on the 2004 state and federal tax return to declare the amount of fuel you brewed so that they can assess back road taxes.
  • by nebaz (453974) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @03:41PM (#9307022)
    But it really can't be a solution for everybody, can it? First of all not everyone has access to a restaurant to get used cooking oil, and last I checked, cooking oil is more expensive at the grocery store than gasoline (I guess it depends on where you live).
  • a few caveats (Score:5, Interesting)

    by eisenbud (708663) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @03:41PM (#9307023)
    Biodiesel is cleaner in every respect except that it generates more NOx. NOx and particulates are the primary pollution problems with diesel engines in general, though the industry is making progress. Also, of course, the "free oil from the restaurant next door" solution won't scale, and will probably only last until some entrepreneur starts buying restaurant oil and reselling it to biodiesel manufacturers. That said, the fact that this closes the carbon loop is a huge win, not to mention the potential for energy independence.
  • by Jerf (17166) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @03:42PM (#9307026) Journal
    with used cooking oil that he gets for free from a nearby restaurant

    Nifty, but if we all went out and did this, the price would skyrocket. Hell, if only all the people who read this story on Slashdot went out and did this, the price would skyrocket.

    All this story says is, "If you get free stuff, you can make other cheap stuff out of it." Regrettably, we're not solving any energy problems by starting with "If you get free stuff..."

    (It's great the guy did this and I respect the hack that this embodies. But people shouldn't try to draw too many conclusions from this. All the cooking oil I've used so far this year (and I don't order many fried foods from restaurants so that's the majority of "my" share of oil) wouldn't hardly get me out of the city.)
  • one problem (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WormholeFiend (674934) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @03:42PM (#9307028)
    is that biodiesel gels at about 32 degress F. So, if you are parking your car outside in below-freezing temperatures, you have to mix it with petroleum diesel and/or add anti-gelling additives.

    • Re:one problem (Score:5, Interesting)

      by sakusha (441986) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @03:47PM (#9307126)
      Even regular diesel fuel engines have trouble in freezing temperatures. Most diesel owners that live in cold weather climates have to plug the car into an electric heater at night if they want their cars to start on a winter morning. Of course there are also plenty of garage fires caused by people who installed the engine heaters incorrectly.
  • Availability (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FortKnox (169099) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @03:42PM (#9307032) Homepage Journal
    Biodisel is a bad solution to the oil problems in america. Why? Because if 50% of cars on the road today had biodeisel, then the price would skyrocket. Why? Although McD's produces a ton of greaseburgers, there simply won't be enough used oil to produce enough fuel for everyone. Wish I had the link to the stats... I'll google around and give the link.
    • Re:Availability (Score:5, Insightful)

      by and by (598383) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @03:47PM (#9307136)
      Yes, but if everyone in America were to convert to using biodiesel, then there'd be an impetus to make it commercially on a large scale. Essentially, we'd have farms producing either vegetable or soy oil for use as fuel. You can make biodiesel out of fresh oil even easier than out of used oil.
    • Re:Availability (Score:5, Insightful)

      by wherley (42799) * on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @03:51PM (#9307198)
      If *anything* changed step-function-wise to 50% it would be a problem.
      Most of the biodiesel in use today in the US is not from used vegetable oil - it's from new soybean (and other seed) oil. Put the American farmer back into the energy loop growing soybeans and take foreign oil sources out - how is that a "bad solution"?
    • Re:Availability (Score:5, Insightful)

      by pavon (30274) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @04:00PM (#9307347)
      Here is some info [slashdot.org] about biodiesel quantities I posting in another biodiesel thread. Biodiesel using conventional crops is not a feasible replacement for gasoline. As posted on slashdot before, there have been some preliminary studies using algae that look promising, but until we get some functional plants operating, I will be suspicious of their numbers. Nothing against them, it's just that they are researchers not business men, and usually don't have the experience necesarry to predict real world numbers.

      I really hope that biodiesel does pan out. I really don't see fuel cells getting anywhere, nor do I see battery technology getting good enough anytime in the future. If we don't get a good fuel before the price of oil jacks up, then the only viable form of transportation is going to be electric rail, which is fine for dense areas, but is bad news for the US.
  • Fuel Taxes (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Steffan (126616) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @03:43PM (#9307052)
    Does it take into account fuel taxes? As far as I know, even if you make your own fuel, you're still liable for paying the road use tax that is normally incorporated into the price at the pump.

  • by adamofgreyskull (640712) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @03:44PM (#9307055)
    ...plenty of times in the UK, where "gas" is now (GBP)1 per litre, or $1.83 per litre, or around $7 american for a gallon.

    How much is regular gas in the US, and how much for diesel?
  • by raistphrk (203742) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @03:44PM (#9307077)
    White Castle and Taco Bell to invest in joint biopower enterprise.
  • by jocknerd (29758) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @03:45PM (#9307081)
    He better hire someone to start his car everyday. The oil companies won't put up with this.
  • What about hemp? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Progman3K (515744) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @03:46PM (#9307105)
    I read somewhere that growing hemp could cut down on deforestation because it can be used as a paper fibre, and that oil can also be extracted from it, like soy.

    So why not hemp-oil for cars?
  • Mercedes New E-Class (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DaedalusLogic (449896) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @03:46PM (#9307109)
    Yeah, now that Mercedes has released it's new E Class with a CDI diesel engine you can have your cake and eat it too. Luxury, performance and fuel economy. With 369 lbft. of torque at 1,800 rpm it probably has better than average acceleration for a 4,000 pound car. Even if you don't use biodiesel this is a great fuel saver for luxury car buyers with 37 mpg highway and in the high twenties in the city.

    http://www.edmunds.com/new/2004/mercedesbenz/ecl as s/100359251/roadtestarticle.html?articleId=101837

    And you know what they use to control emissions in the US market with higher sulpher content fuels. A urea injection system... That's right... Urea is sprayed into the mix with fuel and air.
  • Humboldt California (Score:5, Informative)

    by solarlips (98093) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @03:47PM (#9307128) Homepage
    I am an alumi of Humboldt State University, the area is known for its hippies and agricultural exports (cough). On campus we had the Campus Center for Appropriate Technology (CCAT). CCAT is completely off the power grid and supports most any form of recycling, and green energy. CCAT gives demonstrations on how to create biodiesel, I believe they even have an old diesel Mercedes running off the stuff.

    CCAT's website includes a recipe for biodiesel:
    http://www.humboldt.edu/~ccat/biodiese l/frames.htm l

    I've been told that most of the public trasportation in Berkeley, CA runs off of biodiesel (?).
  • by ProgressiveCynic (624271) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @03:55PM (#9307264) Homepage
    Biodiesel is an excellent option for a few smart individuals who follow this general plan. However, trying to convert a large portion of the national fleet to biodiesel is simply unworkable.

    First, the amount of land required to grow enough oil for all the cars currently operating has been estimated to be about the same amount of land contained in the continental US, and I believe there are a couple of other uses people had in mind for that land too. I've seen similar estimates for the UK fleet vs. UK landmass.

    Second, our current style of agri-business uses large quantities of fossil fuels in the production of crops. Fertilizers, herbicides, and pestidcides are all produced using fossil fuels, and actually require more than a gallon of oil input to generate a gallon of vegetable oil. This isn't really a problem if you're using oil that was already purchased by McDonalds since the oil would have been produced and consumed anyway, but producing biodiesel as the primary aim of the operation is simply counter-productive. Unless you're buying organic biodiesel, and let's face it, there's only so much manure to go around.

    • by TheSync (5291) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @04:34PM (#9307818) Journal
      Biofuels become much more practical when produced usng genetically engineered enzymes (such as high-activity cellulase to digest cellulose waste products from existing crops), or genetically-engineering microbes that do their own enhanced photosynthesis-to-fuel production.
  • by Inoshiro (71693) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @03:55PM (#9307279) Homepage
    Remember that while the addage, "if everyone drove these cars, the price of these cars fuel would skyrocket" is true, it ignorse the fact that by having easily substitable goods, you change the price elasticity of demand. Coke and Pepsi share similar prices because Coke knows that if they double their prices, people will just buy Pepsi.

    So while there might be a bit of an increase in the price of diesel or biodiesel, the price of gasoline would be affected as well because we would consume less of it. The more alternatives you have for an activity, the more in touch with reality their pricing is. Take CDs -- their pricing should be dropping because DVDs and video games are (bang for the buck) much more effective. However, because the RIAA is ignorant, they're trying to use price fixing. Naturally, this isn't working as the price elasticity for that good has been increasing in the past few years :)

    Every time there is another way to solve a problem, we all benefit.
  • by meehawl (73285) <meehawl.spam@gma i l .com> on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @04:03PM (#9307386) Homepage Journal
    Obviously the writers of Lard of the Dance [tvtome.com] knew that one day used grease would become a hot commodity!

    How else to explain Groundskeeper Willie's despairing cry when he realises that Homer and Bart have siphoned away the school's frying grease...
  • by SuperBanana (662181) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @04:04PM (#9307395)
    Perhaps these are some of the reasons why diesel powered cars are making a comeback in the US

    No, not really. It has more to do with skyrocketing gasoline costs and the fact that TDI technology is miles above the old diesels. It's quieter, more efficient, more powerful, the blocks are lighter thanks to superior materials, and TDI isn't nearly as sensitive to the cold- it doesn't even need the glowplugs above 40 or so degrees. The glowplug system is tied into the central locking, so when you approach the car and unlock the doors, it figures out if it's cold enough to need the glowplugs and starts warming them; as a result, the car's ready to go before you are, most of the time. Diesel is also much more prevalent now that there are a lot more diesels in pickups, vans, etc used by small businesses and non-fleet operators.

    That addresses many of the concerns the public had about diesel- hard to find fuel, noisy, heavy, and a bitch in the cold.

    A lot of people get hybrids wrong too, thinking it's all the hippies buying them. Dealers say that was true initially, now it's just regular commuters who want the most efficient car. Biodiesel is a boutique fuel aside from use in fleets in 2% mixes to replace sulfur in low-sulfur fuels.

  • by deacon (40533) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @04:06PM (#9307417) Journal
    The reason his fuel is that cheap (or that diesel for on road vehicles is so expensive) is that he is not paying fuel tax on it.

    You can run a diesel car on home heating oil too, but you are evadeing the fuel tax.

    The per gallon Federal Motor Fuel Excise Tax is 18.4 cents on gasoline, 13.6 cents on LPG, 24.4 cents on diesel fuel, 13.0 cents on gasohol, 19.4 cents on aviation gas, and 4.4 cents on jet fuel. These monies go to the Federal Highway Trust Fund. [sddot.com]

    The by-state fuel tax averages 22 cents a gallon for gasoline [sddot.com], I am too lazy to find a diesel link.

    Google for federal fuel tax and state fuel tax for more info.

    Here is one of many links for the actual prices of fuels, before the tax. [doe.gov]

  • by aquarian (134728) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @04:06PM (#9307418)
    The biggest savings these people are experiencing is from avoiding road taxes, which are a major part of the price of commercial gasoline or diesel. Right now the "underground" biodiesel movement exists in a gray area. There are too few people for the authorities to bother cracking down on, but if enough people start doing it they will. Right now, untaxed diesel for off-road use in boats and industrial/farm equipment is dyed red. If you're caught with "red" diesel in your car or truck, you'll have to pay huge fines. The dye is stubborn, too -- once it's in there, it stays for many, many tanksful.

    Sooner or later there's going to be a crackdown. Making your own biodiesel may soon be illegal, for all practical purposes -- either explicitly, or through red tape that's too hard to deal with. You're either going to have to add red dye, prove that you're paying road taxes, or something.

    Personally, I think the best way for the government to spur development of alternative fuel infrastructure is to offer a road tax holiday for alternative fuel users -- say 5 years or so. Let this apply to all biodiesel, CNG, hydrogen, ethanol, and electric vehicles.
  • by cb8100 (682693) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @04:13PM (#9307520)

    True, diesel may be making a comeback in the U.S., but not so in California (unless you count pickup trucks).

    I was in the market for a new car a few months ago and (after renting one in Germany) was very interested in a Volkswagen Jetta. I saw the Volkswagen offered a TDI (turbo-diesel injection) model which had more horsepower, better gas-mileage and lower emissions than the standard unleaded gasoline engine. However, for some unknown reason, the TDI model is not approved for sale or import into California,

    Upon further research, I've found some BMW and Mercedes-Benz models that offer diesel engines (also with lower emissions and better mileage than their unleaded counterparts) that are available for sale in the U.S., but not in California.

    It strikes me as very odd that in a state as liberal and environmentally minded as California, a lower emission engine isn't available in these cars. My guess is that some old-timer remembers the diesels that belched black smoke all day and doesn't realize how many advances have been made in diesel engines.

    • by aquarian (134728) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @04:40PM (#9307898)
      It strikes me as very odd that in a state as liberal and environmentally minded as California, a lower emission engine isn't available in these cars. My guess is that some old-timer remembers the diesels that belched black smoke all day and doesn't realize how many advances have been made in diesel engines.

      What happened was, certain automakers played to these black smoke prejudices, and got diesels banned so their competitors couldn't get a toehold. Using pollution issues as an excuse, the CARB took a radical stance against diesel cars at the behest of Toyota, Honda, Ford, etc., in order to keep out Volkswagen and Daimler/Chrysler (Mercedes). As if a few more relatively clean diesel cars on the road would make a difference, considering the number of diesel trucks, locomotives, industrial equipment, and jet aircraft!
  • by Mean_Nishka (543399) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @04:17PM (#9307583) Homepage Journal
    Now I can buy a hummer!!
  • by Dark Coder (66759) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @04:30PM (#9307769)
    Only 0.41?

    I'd gladly pay $1.50/gallon for this stuff!

    What a markup for these biodiesel guys!
  • Not a solution (Score:3, Interesting)

    by linuxhansl (764171) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @04:30PM (#9307770)
    I read that in order to supply the US with Biodiesel you need an area larger that the US growing Soy (or whatever you use for Biodiesel). So unless new cars have way better mileage, we are still facing the same problem.
    (The same BTW is true for Solarcells and Windenergy, with the current energy consumption there is simply not enough room in the western countries to supply all the energy).

    It helps, though. Especially because BioDiesel necessarily uses the same amount of CO2 that it sets free when burned, so it wouldn't contribute to the greenhouse effect.
  • Attribution (Score:4, Informative)

    by OpenMind(tm) (129095) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @04:32PM (#9307793)
    Maybe I'm a stickler for such things, but it seems a little weird that this post doesn't make it clear that it is just a paraphrase of this article on Wired News [wired.com]. On the face of it, it would look like Iphtashu Fitz was posting info he drew from several sources, rather than lifting them all from a single work by someone else.

    I'll grant, if you follow the links the truth will be obvious, but I imagine the author of the Wired
    News piece wouldn't mind getting a bit more explicit credit.
  • by Teahouse (267087) on Tuesday June 01, 2004 @04:55PM (#9308111)
    I was in a college group that studied the biodiesel option, and we came to another conclusion, methane would be better. We can get it from our own societal waste products, it is much easier to store than hydrogen, and most vehicles can be converted to methane at a far lower price than any other conversion (hybrid/fuel cell/electric). There is an infrastructure in place that can be converted to dispense the product, and vehicles generally get a 3-8mpg improvement running on methane.

    I have no idea why this idea has never been persued by a few corporations. All the technology is already in place, the program could be started today, and creating methane reactors for our bio-waste would actually be a simple prospect.

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