By Tom Pelton ||Sun reporter
June 22, 2008
Mark Nagurney gets free used cooking oil from a neighborhood restaurant. Maryland requires drivers to register vegetable-oil-fueled vehicles and pay taxes; federal law prohibits the fuel.
(Sun photo by Gene Sweeney Jr. / June 18, 2008) 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 physicist is one of thousands nationally who have converted their diesel cars and trucks to run on straight 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 cents per 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 last October to convert his gray 1996 Volkswagon 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 at the same time.