Veggie-oil vehicle owners in a legal pickle

Discussion in 'Diesel powered automobiles' started by ALS, Jul 2, 2008.

  1. ALS

    ALS Super Moderator Staff Member

    Drivers of vegetable-oil vehicles in a legal pickle
    By Tom Pelton
    The Baltimore Sun
    Article Launched: 07/02/2008 01:35:39 AM PDT

    With fuel prices soaring, Mark Nagurney thought he had figured out a clever way to drive free - and save the Earth at the same time. The 49-year-old Laurel, Md., physicist is one of thousands of people nationally who have converted diesel cars and trucks to run on vegetable oil.

    But in burning a cleaner fuel than diesel, Nagurney never imagined he'd end up on the wrong side of federal environmental laws. Or break Maryland's fuel tax regulations, which require even folks driving on grease thrown away by fast-food restaurants to get a "special fuel" license, obtain a $1,000 bond from an insurance company, file monthly forms and pay the same 24-cent-a-gallon tax as drivers using diesel.

    Nagurney finds the tax rules misguided. "Let's get renewable energy going," he said.

    After hearing about vehicle conversion from some co-workers, the strait-laced Republican defense contractor paid a mechanic $2,500 in October to convert his 1996 Volkswagen Passat so it can run on either vegetable oil or diesel. Nagurney gets waste oil free from a Chinese restaurant in his neighborhood and thinks it's a great way to recycle and save money.

    He's part of a small but growing number of people nationally who have embraced straight vegetable oil fuel - or "SVO" - as an alternative energy source that helps to free America from foreign petroleum.

    The numbers are uncertain, but advocates estimate that thousands of people are converting their vehicles,

    with mechanic shops springing up that specialize in the conversions. One company, Golden Fuel of Springfield, Mo., has seen a 400 percent increase in sales of kits to convert diesel vehicles to run on SVO, with 200 sold so far this year and 150 orders pending.
    But these motorists are running afoul of federal and state government agencies whose jobs are to collect taxes from drivers to pay for road maintenance and make sure that fuels don't pollute the air.

    Maryland drivers face a $1,000 fine for driving on vegetable fuel if they don't register first with the state and file monthly reports and payments, according to Chuck Ulm, assistant director of motor vehicle taxes in the state comptroller's office.

    A spokesman for Comptroller Peter Franchot said Franchot generally supports the use of alternative fuels as a way to help end the nation's dependence on foreign oil and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

    But, said spokesman Warren Hansen, "At this point, the legislature has not changed the way this fuel is taxed or regulated, so we are just enforcing the laws that are currently on the books."

    But a tax credit in Maryland would have little effect if driving while green is illegal at the federal level. Catherine C. Milbourn, spokeswoman for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, said federal laws prohibit running vehicles on used vegetable oil.

    "All fuels have to be tested before they can be used in a vehicle, because when something goes into the engine and is burned up, something comes out of the tailpipe. And we want to make sure it doesn't harm the environment in any way," Milbourn said. "Vegetable fuel has not been registered as a motor vehicle fuel."

    Garages or companies that convert vehicles to run on vegetable oil can be subject to federal fines of $32,500 per violation, she said. People who convert their cars face fines of as much as $2,750.

    The EPA has not fined anyone for this, but the federal agency is inspecting and investigating people for not following these rules, said Roxanne Smith, another EPA spokeswoman.

    Scientists have concluded that burning vegetable oil releases less soot, carbon monoxide and other air pollutants than petroleum fuel - but about 5 percent more nitrogen oxide, which contributes to smog. SVO produces about the same amount of carbon dioxide as diesel.

    Still, Forrest Gregg, an author who recently published a book called "SVO: Powering Your Vehicle with Straight Vegetable Oil," said that vegetable oil is considered better than diesel fuel from a global-warming perspective. This is because the plants recently drew the same carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, he said, so returning it is part of a natural cycle.
  2. seftonm

    seftonm Veteran Staff Member

    This bothers me when I see it. As far as I know, drivers of electric vehicles of PHEV's don't need to pay fuel taxes on the electricity they use. So why do WVO/SVO owners need to pay fuel tax on their oil? The fuel tax regulations need to be changed.
  3. brick

    brick Answers to "that guy."

    So the Feds can't make a serious effort to increase fuel economy regs, but they have plenty of time to prosecute those who want to do something about it on their own. Some system.
  4. worthywads

    worthywads Don't Feel Like Satan, I am to AAA

    I suspect that Governments are planning ways to tax PHEV's and EV's, don't worry they'll figure out a way.
  5. bestmapman

    bestmapman Fighting untruth and misinformation

    If you are smart, don't tell anyone you running Svo or Wvo.
  6. aca2983

    aca2983 Well-Known Member

    Same thing was in the news about 2 years ago in Britain.

    States fund the upkeep of roads via fuel taxes, so basically the argument (in the eyes of some) is tax evasion.

    Hybrid and alt fuel vehicles have been getting subsidies in the form of tax breaks and HOV preferences.

    Everyone thinks they're entitled to a tax break, but eventually the tax man will catch up one way or another.

    For now I would just don't ask don't tell.
  7. Vooch

    Vooch Well-Known Member

    good advice
  8. basjoos

    basjoos Well-Known Member

    I wonder if they are going around prosecuting the owners of Stanley, White, Doble, and other antique steamcars for not paying fuel taxes on the kerosene and white gas their steamers burn.
  9. Big Dave

    Big Dave Well-Known Member

    This is why I oppose any top-down measures to reduce oil consumption.

    Regulatory bureaucrats are people who cannot get a job anywhere else.

    As for the law itself, SCOTUS justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. summed it up pithily: "Sometimes, the law is an a**."

    Think about this anytime you feel like advocating new federal statutes or regs.
  10. SD3_Driver

    SD3_Driver Well-Known Member

    maybe they are seeing a trend towards those fuels and are afraid of the future ( a lot of cars running on wvo/svo and no money for them ):):mad:
  11. donee

    donee Well-Known Member

    Hi All,

    I remember a quotation from a long time ago "Render unto Ceaser...". This certainly applies to motor fuel taxes. The roads just do not grow out of the ground on their own.

    The real problem is the slow action by states to reduce the onerous excessive level of securities involved. This is not a service provided by a comercial entrerprise to the general public. Its simply personal initiative. Put some line on yearly Income Tax form alright already. Example:

    Xa Have you powered a non-commercial passenger motor vehicle on the public roadways with untaxed fuel Y/N
    Xb What is the weight of that vehicle _______ lbs
    Xc How Many Miles was this vehicle operated within the State of XX on untaxed fuel ______Miles
    Xd If Line Xa is Y, then multiply Xb by Xc and enter value here ____________ lbs-miles

    Xe Multiply Line Xd by .0000024 and enter road tax here $ _____.__

    Simple eh ? How come our congress people do not get this ? The .0000024 is based on a 24 Cent per Gallon, and a 2000 lbs car getting 50 mpg on Diesel it would have burned otherwise.
  12. kwj

    kwj I hypermiled this

    So, why don't they simply come up with an exemption for home-made production, like they did for wine and beer? They get a well deserved black eye for such a stance.

    It will never amount to such a high number of individuals that it will even matter - we will run out of such used oils when the demand increases, and restaurants will start charging.

    Give these few individuals a break, they are part of the solution, and the government is not here to help you. Their revenues are decreasing. To maintain status quo, government must tax at a higher rate. Chevy can close a factory, the government can't close down a division without transferring everyone to another cash cow.

    If they want to tax the used oil, go ahead. Charge them a nickle for every dollar of used vegetable oil they BUY and have a RECEIPT for.

    And as for "If you are smart, don't tell anyone you running Svo or Wvo." They will just trace down the scent of automobiles that smell like french fries. Gotcha.
  13. donee

    donee Well-Known Member

    Hi Kwj,

    Its not used oil that is being taxed. Its the rolling of a vehicle over the public thoroughfares.

    I agree they are being treated like criminals. But in my first post it illustrates the very simple, easy to way the government can be compensated for supplying the common infrastructure, the SVO not go to waste, AND CO2 emissions be avoided. Its not even a break to not for the government to not require individual SVO usage to be bonded, its mearly a fact that they are not selling it, buying it, merely turning what would be water polution into nega-CO2 emissions, that the government has no standing to require the bond. But they go about demanding it anyway.

    The way they are being treated is illegal I think. By denying people making their own fuel, they maintain a monopoly of fuel. Which is a trust. They are in trust with professional fuel manufacturers and distributors.
  14. brian.ingram

    brian.ingram Sacrifice more than golf!

    Smacks of the ol' Whiskey Rebellion we all read about in History, doesn't it.

    Still, 24 cents per gallon of free vegetable oil is, what, about a 95% discount off of retail desiel. File the forms, pay the tax and STILL be able to thumb your nose at us dumb S.O.B.s still paying full price. . .sounds like a bargain to me.
  15. GardenWeasel

    GardenWeasel Well-Known Member

    Precisely right. If you invest in your own equipment - exemption for fuel made for your own use.
  16. JohnM

    JohnM Well-Known Member

    There are several solutions to this problem of the government and state not getting their taxes. One would be to enact a tax break for these cars and fuels. There probably is not enough used vegetable oil out there to have it be a problem. The EPA should also do a study of the variation of vegetable oil pollution and see if it really is a problem in the grand scheme of things. We need effective politicians to work this out. Alternative fuels should be encouraged. However, people who use public roads should somehow pay for the upkeep of the roads at some point.

    A similar problem exists with states not being able to collect taxes on Internet sales outside of their own states. States were counting on this tax money to pay for services. In NY, there is an optional box in your state Income Tax form where you can pay $56 for small non taxed catalog and Internet purchases. This makes it easy to abide by the law and is not too expensive. A similar approach could be used for vegetable automotive fuels.
  17. kwj

    kwj I hypermiled this

    Hi Donee, I'm not trying to argue, but you said "Its not used oil that is being taxed. Its the rolling of a vehicle over the public thoroughfares."

    That is paid for by the vehicle purchase tax, the annual value tax, the license, the registration, the tickets, and the Driver's license test and constant renewals. Letting a few thousand vegetable fuel drivers avoid just the commercial fuel tax wouldn't break us, AND, it would save on Diesel fuel use. What is the true loss there?

    It is self limiting, and when the demand is high, there will be a dollar cost. At that time, get a receipt and pay tax at the point of sale. Simple.
  18. donee

    donee Well-Known Member

    Hi Kwj,

    The license and registration may pay to help improve the infrastruture capacity, but its not going to pay for ongoing maintenance. It can not. Some cars are on the road for 200K miles, and some for only 80 K miles before they go to the junk yard. There is just not anyway to guess how long, and being safely above the money required for the complete road damage caused by the lifetime of a vehicle's operation, would be onerous to new car purchasers. Are you ready for a $10K license fee ? I think not.

    Driver's license fees here are modest. I just got my reup and its $15.00. This seems to be mearly the administrative cost.

    Vehicle License fees are more costly, but still, I cannot see my car doing only $80 in road work a year.

    Not sure what an anual Value Tax is. Is that like the CT vehicle property tax? We do not have those here, or in most midwestern states.

    The problem with letting a few thousand SVO people off, is that sooner or later its a few 10's of thousands, then 100's of thousands and the flegling Biodiesel people go out of buisness. What I posted is simple and straightforward.

    The real crime is treating these people as if they are retail distributors, and not industrious individuals that by their actions are benefiting society, and themselves.
  19. Xringer

    Xringer Older Member

    "ongoing maintenance."??? That's a joke right?

    Maybe folks don't realize we are all over a barrel.. The people selling the oil know that they
    can charge anything they want to. Gas at $20 a gallon in August 08 could actually happen..

    I think everyone knows it's going to be $20 a gallon at some point. It's just a matter of time.

    Anyways, we are already seeing a drop in traffic flow all over America. And it's going to keep dropping as the price of gas increases.
    Sadly, as the demand for gas falls off.. There will still be plenty of buyers (They HAVE to have gas). And so long as there are buyers,
    the sellers can keep increasing their prices to maintain their massive incomes.

    My point is, with traffic falling off daily.. Soon we won't need 8 lane highways..
    We can do up-keep on 4 lanes and put solar panels on the rest ;)
  20. COMP

    COMP Member

    anything new ?

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