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Kentucky Fried Jeepin'

In the interests of fuel economy, I've been thinking about trading in my 2002 Jeep Liberty for one of the new diesel models. But now this article in The Smithsonian (via SciTech Daily) really has me thinking. Consider these two use-cases:

Every few weeks, Etta Kantor goes to a Chinese restaurant and fills a couple of five-gallon pails with used cooking oil. Back in her garage, the 59-year-old philanthropist and grandmother strains it through a cloth filter and then pours it into a custom-made second fuel tank in her 2003 Volkswagen Jetta diesel station wagon. Once the car is warmed up, she flips a fuel toggle on the dashboard to switch to the vegetable oil. Wherever she drives, she’s trailed by the appetizing odor of egg rolls.

Sean Parks of Davis, California, collects his cooking oil from a fish-and-chips restaurant and a corn-dog shop. He purifies it chemically in a 40-gallon reactor that he built himself for about $200. The processed oil can be used even when his car's engine is cold, at a cost of about 70 cents a gallon. Parks, 30, a geographer for the U.S. Forest Service, makes enough processed oil to fuel his family's two cars.

The article goes on to point out that the grease running through all the deep fryers in all the restaurants and fast food joints in the US could be used to make about 100 million gallons of biodiesel fuel annually, which could meet about 5% of our national fuel consumption needs.


What's most impressive to me about the adoption of this energy source is that apparently some folks don't feel the need to wait for biodiesel to be offered at their neighborhood Shell station before they start using it. They're adjusting their vehicles and finding the fuel themselves.

The article concludes:

Grass-roots fans aren't waiting. Kantor, who paid $1,400 to outfit her VW diesel with a second fuel tank, says she gets nearly 200 miles per petrodiesel gallon. "This is not about money," says Kantor, who speaks at schools about protecting the environment. "I'm doing this to set an example."

Well, 200 MPG sounds pretty darn good. I doubt a modified Jeep would be quite as fuel efficient as a modified Jetta, but still.
Even at 150 miles per gallon, that would be 8-9 times better than the mileage I'm currently getting. And there's a hot wings place just right up the street (with a McDonald's and a Popeye's along the way.)


UPDATE: Well, our friends J Random American and Engineer Poet didn't waste much time in totally raining on my hot-wings-Jeep parade (see comments, below.) However, J's cat diesel idea has me thinking that maybe we shouldn't just be thinking of running the Jeep on chicken grease. The chickens themselves would appear to be a good option. Of course, if we really want to get a meme going, maybe we should crunch the numbers on how much fuel we could get from puppies. I can think of at least one prominent blogger who might be intrigued.

On a more serious note, J points out some very real economy of scale objections to these gimmicky fuel sources. Read the whole thing.


Notice that she claims 200mpg on PETRO-diesel, not bio-diesel. I don't care what she is using, I doubt the 200mpg is typical, there just isn't enough energy in either fuel. 50mpg is more like it for the diesel Jettas. If she put on skinny tires, over inflated them, ripped out dead weight (like spare tires, passenger seats, and sound insulation), taped all the seams, ran a test run with the wind at her back and then averaged her numbers up then she might get 200. I suspect someone is just lying.

Forget cooking oil. I put up a "crunchy" post on biodiesel sources just this Monday. If she wanted to set a good example about conserving scare resources, then it would be about money. What else do we measure the value of resources in? What you need for your Jeep is cat diesel, or at least Alphakat diesel.

J. Random American

Note that the 100 million gallon/year number amounting to 5% of US consumption does not jibe with EIA figures.  US distillate consumption averages a bit over 4 million barrels per day, or about 62 billion gallons per year.

I've read elsewhere that US cooking grease consumption is about 3.5 BILLION gallons per year, which actually fits with the 5% claim.

I think the 5% claim was for all biodiesel, not just the 100 million gal/year of cooking oil derived biodiesel. Still, I'd take anything in this article with a big grain of salt. It reads like an advocacy piece instead of real analysis.

From the context, that 5% is also probably based on a 41 billion gal/yr consumption estimate which would be about right if they only count diesel and ignore non-transportation sector distillate.

BTW, I meant scarce, not "scare", obviously. E.P., I found your Lever & a Place to Stand post intersting. I cited it in my cat diesel analysis.

Great!  That's what it's for.

Incidentally, 200 miles per petrodiesel gallon probably means just that:  only counting the petrodiesel.  If you assume 3/4 of the mileage is powered by greasel, you get a very reasonable 50 MPG.

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