CA Veggie Oil Drivers Paying Road Tax, More

John Davis

caflag.gifYou know the old expression: “no good deed goes unpunished.” Well, drivers in California who are trying to do the right thing and run their vehicles on cleaner fuels are getting hit up for not paying taxes… and more.

According to this story from the LA Times, those who are driving their vehicles using vegetable oil or used cooking grease are being fined for not paying road taxes, as well as being hit up for not having $1 million in liability insurance (in case the oils spill) and not having the proper permits to burn fat:

The regulations are so burdensome that even Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, trying to set an example for Californians by driving a Hummer that burns cooking oil he buys at Costco, had not complied. Schwarzenegger, who has said that the exhaust from his Hummer smells so much like French fries that his passengers get hunger pangs, was unaware that he was required to send Sacramento an 18-cent road tax for every gallon of kitchen oil he burned, according to spokesman Aaron McLear. After The Times raised the issue, McLear said the governor would pay the taxes he owed.

The governor’s staff says it is working on making it easier to drive using vegetable oil without being an outlaw.

“We are very interested in making sure people who have these kinds of vehicles are able to comply as easily as possible,” McLear said.

But environmentalists are frustrated. “It is ridiculous that we live in what is presumed to be one of the greenest states in the nation, yet we have the most antiquated laws to deal with green energy,” said Josh Tickell, an alternative-fuels advocate and filmmaker whose documentary “Fields of Fuel” recently won the audience award at the Sundance Film Festival.

“Everyone I know wants to do the right thing by the law,” he said. “But the state is not set up to even clearly provide information to folks.”

The article goes on to say that most California drivers trying to burn their own fuel are doing it underground, especially after the Meat and Poultry Inspection Branch of the state government raised the license fee from $75 to $300 for those hauling any amount of the vegetable or animal fat oil fuel.

As you might remember from my post back on March 25, 2007, Wisconsin homebrew biodiesel makers ran afoul of the tax laws in that state… ironic since the state was at the same time pushing more use of renewable fuels. Hopefully, one day, these states that claim to want to help the environment will realize that that only happens when you give the common man the tools to help.