One Fresno man's slick alternative to gasoline

October 11, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Not everyone is struggling with these sky high gas prices. Some people fill up for free.

Ken Martens Friesen hits the gas station just once a month. His commitment to reduce our dependence on oil is reflected in the type of car he drives. This is no regular 2001 Volkswagen diesel Jetta.

"I just push this button right here and now we're on vegetable oil," Ken said. "It takes about 10 seconds."

When Ken Craves Chinese or Vietnamese food his takeout order includes used restaurant oil. He collects it in 50 gallon drums.

"Restaurants give it away," Ken said. "They're happy to give it away, otherwise they have to pay someone to pick it up."

He filters the used oil before he adds it to his 12 gallon tank inside the trunk. The engine runs on diesel for a few minutes until it hits 140 degrees. Then he can switch to vegetable oil.

"Diesels work on combustion rather than the spark," Ken said. "They go by combustion the combustion the combustion properties of vegetable oil are the same as diesel."

Diesel may be costly but again, the used oil is free. The cost of a road trip Martens Friesen is taking next week boggles the mind.

"A trip to Denver costs about between a dollar and two dollars," Ken said. "The fuel is free except for starting and stopping."

When gas hit three dollars a gallon in 2006 this Fresno Pacific political science professor switched to vegetable oil.

Ken said, "Actually you don't notice at all that you're on vegetable oil other than the little smell coming out that smells like french fries or tempura or whatever."

The converter kit for diesel vehicles costs a thousand dollars but the deep frying oil gets 42 miles a gallon, so Ken has enjoyed crisp savings during this fuel crunch.


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