A Tub of Soy Please

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Compiled by Linda Platts

By now, most of us have heard that using vegetable oil to run diesel engine cars is the clean way to drive—reducing carbon emissions. And, we have heard about those handy folks who manage to switch their cars to vegetable power, make friends with the local McDonald’s, and soon are buzzing around town with the odor of french fries wafting from their exhaust pipes.

With the ever fluctuating price of petroleum-based fuels, it is an enviable position to be in. But what about those who are not mechanically inclined or don’t even know what a car engine looks like?

Some kind folks have taken pity on the rest of the population. Two entrepreneurs joined forces to form Neoteric Biofuels, which does business as PlantDrive (www.plantdrive.com) to provide instructions for converting a diesel engine to a vegetable oil-burning motor. Instructions as well as technical assistance are available online, and PlantDrive products that can make the job easier are also available. The estimated cost for a do-it-yourself conversion is $700 to $800.

The next step is the vegetable oil. This can be a little time consuming, but not a problem for the truly dedicated or economy minded. Many restaurants are happy to donate their used vegetable oil; otherwise they have to pay to dispose of it. The catch is that it needs filtering before it can be poured into the tank. Filtering systems require two barrels, two pumps, a bag filtration system, and a water separating system, costing about $300 to $500.

The Costco Connection, a magazine published by the company for its customers, has another solution: it sells 35.6-pound tubs of clean soy oil. Throwing a few of those tubs in the back of the Jetta is probably simpler for many people and better for Costco too. Here is one last piece of good news. According to Costco Connection, converted diesel-powered cars can continue to run on regular diesel from the pumps. So don’t worry if you are on the road and out of range of your favorite superstore.

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Linda is responsible for the PERC web sites, media relations, the national journalism conference, and the media fellows program. She is author of Forest Fires, part of a series of  environmental education books for high school students. She also wrote and produced Square One, a newsletter that introduced grassroots environmentalists to market...
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