do I smell french fries?

There was a time when veggie oil cars were nothing more than an occasional unexplained passing french fry aroma to those outside the underground—the die hard wrenchers who converted old diesel cars and trucks to run on vegetable oil. It was their dirty (or clean) little secret. Restaurant owners were glad to get rid of used cooking oil and fuel for veggie oil cars required no more expenditure than a little perspiration per gallon and willingness to get ones’ hands dirty. Running an old diesel on used cooking oil was messy job, required mechanical know-how, and would never catch on with the masses because gas was less than 2 bucks a gallon.

Cut to the present. Veggie oil cars are the quintessential statement of environmental responsibility, intelligence and status. They’re often owned by enviro-concious celebrities and other wealthy folk who can easily afford 5 dollar per gallon petro, and are seldom seen without the powered by vegetable oil bumper sticker. Driving a vegetable oil car is a stronger statement than driving a hybrid because not only are you not polluting, you’re off the big-oil power grid entirely, and burning pure veggie-juice, man. Radical!

However, it isn’t too wise to advertise this sort of anarchy. In case you haven’t noticed, pump gasoline is heavily taxed. Among the taxes paid per gallon of gas that we Californians seem to love—Cali gas is among the most heavily taxed in the nation—is a road tax. A road tax isn’t elective like a cigarette tax, it’s a way for the government to indirectly fund road maintenance and construction. It’s an alternative to paying tolls everywhere for driving on a particular highway or freeway. Essentially, veggie oil car drivers are evading taxes. They’re using road infrastructure without paying the price of admission. According to a recent LA times article, the authorities have caught wind of this a while ago, and are cracking down veggie oil suppliers and drivers of vegetable oil cars.

Now, officially, the renaissance of veggie oil cars is over. It’s no longer free, unregulated or punk-rock in any way. If you want to stay out of trouble, you’ve got to figure out how to pay taxes on each gallon of veggie oil gas from a legit, permitted supplier. Of course, there’s no streamlined process for getting through these bureaucratic hurdles—you’ll have to deal with red tape which is no fun at all, and almost impossible for all intents and purposes. Or you can lose the cockiness and run veggie oil without advertising it. Just take the damn sticker off the back of your veggie-car. Be covert. That way, only cops with canine-esque sniffing capabilities can follow their noses to your tax-evading butt and write you a ticket.

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