Fines And Felony Charges For Letting Your Car Run On Restaurant Vegetable Oil?

from the not-such-a-good-thing dept

There have been numerous stories recently about people converting their cars to run on leftover vegetable oil from restaurant kitchens. Many restaurants need to get rid of that oil anyway, and are more than happy to give it away for nothing or next to nothing (though, obviously that would change as demand grows). While this seems like a great example of one way that people can help take a step away from the oil addiction the government is apparently afraid of, it seems that (oops) the government isn't going to make it very easy for people.

Yehuda Berlinger points us to the bureaucratic insanity faced by a retired couple in Illinois who simply want to drive their vegetable oil-fueled car, but now face huge fines and possible felony charges for doing so. The details sound like they're right out of a bad movie. They've owned the car for while and they fuel it up using leftover restaurant cooking oil. However, earlier this year, two officials knocked on their door from the Illinois Department of Revenue, telling the couple that they were violating the law by not paying an additional motor fuel tax. The couple did the calculations on how much tax they needed to pay, and while annoying, it wasn't outrageous. However, in order to pay, they first needed to get approved for a license as a "special fuel supplier" or "receiver." Except... the process to become approved for such a license requires a $2,500 bond, and the forms are designed for businesses not individuals. The couple then received a letter saying they needed to stop being a special fuel supplier or receiver until they were licensed to be such -- but the details of how you qualify to be either a special fuel receive or supplier showed that they qualified as neither. Yet, the state still insisted that they had to get such a license, because otherwise they had no way to collect the tax. They then noted that operating as a special fuel supplier or receiver without the necessary license was a felony.

The government says that it's trying to make the process easier, but the whole concept seems ridiculous. As the guy notes, based on these arguments, shouldn't Toyota Prius drivers also have to pay a special motor fuel tax for the times when it's driving using electricity rather than fuel? After all, what's the real difference between powering the car with electricity generated by the vehicle compared to powering it with leftover vegetable oil? As for the government making the process easier, it's not like this is an entirely new concept. Over in Wales there was nearly an identical situation about five years ago that actually resulted in police impounding the vegetable oil-powered cars. It's difficult to see how you move people away from an addiction to oil when you make it impossible to actually stop using oil cost effectively.

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  1. identicon
    Tin Ear, 8 Mar 2007 @ 9:46am

    Money from fines, money from taxes.

    The root issue here is the road tax. How will the Highway Department make the money needed to maintain the highways. The number one source of highway revenue is the gasoline tax. Diesel fuel is taxed as well, but only the fuel used in 'over the road' rigs. You can buy untaxed diesel for use in your grain combines and farm equipment, and you better not get caught using it in your highway truck!

    The problem is that, with biodiesel, there is no tax base to calculate a tax on it's use nor is there any way to determine how many road miles it is used with. With some of the new 'untaxed' alternative fuels on the road, I can see a day coming that you are going to be required to place a 'tax-tracker' in your vehicle that will track the actual miles you drive on the roads and highways. The government will charge you a tax per mile and send you a bill to collect. (Get caught without your tracker on your car = fines, jail, worse) That way they can prove that you drove X amount of miles (regardless of fuel source) and owe X amount for using the roads and highways.

    Of course, this will take billions in tax dollars to implement, but that is what the government does best. Spend our tax dollars and find ways to take more tax dollars from us.

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