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Fueling your car at the fryer

Kathleen Marcotte will kick off a biodiesel adventure after Hilltrip's Enviro Fest afterparty

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Who would have ever thought that used restaurant fryer vegetable oil could be one way of tackling escalating gas prices and greenhouse gas emissions?

Whistlerite Kathleen Marcotte was getting tired of paying skyrocketing prices and looked to alternative fuels for a solution – biodiesel fueling.

"There is some chemistry with it," the Montreal native explained. "I add different chemicals like lye and methanol to (the vegetable oil) and let it sit for 24 hours. The liquid separates and I make soap from the bottom and the top (product) I put in my car to make the engine run."

The Greenpeace member sets out on an experimental biodiesel run down the coast from Whistler to California after the Hilltrip’s Enviro Fest afterparty Saturday, June 10 at the Savage Beagle.

Proceeds from the fundraiser, which include a raffle and remixes from turntable master DJ R3, will finance Hilltrip’s carbon-offset program. The program funds initiatives that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Marcotte will be the first recipient to benefit from the funding — under $100 to ready her car for the new adventure.

She will write about her experiences on a daily blog, terratrip.org, in an effort to better educate people about biodiesel fuel.

After reading a U.K. web publication, Biodiesel Secrets Revealed by Ash Ried, Marcotte set to work on her diesel-run 1992 Volkswagen Golf and started brewing her petrol alternative at home with oil donated from local restaurants. The biodiesel process is lengthy and requires numerous test batches before finding the right combination.

Marcotte is currently operating at a 20 per cent biodiesel and 80 percent diesel system. She intends to be running 50/50 when she leaves and 100 percent by the time she reaches California.

"I want to know how my car reacts," she said. "I don’t want to be left on the side of the highway, so I am just seeing how much (my car) can take."

There are a few factors to consider when adopting biodiesel fuel, according to Biodiesel Secrets Revealed : vehicle warranties will not cover a vehicle operating at five per cent or more of biodiesel. If temperatures drop to freezing levels the vegetable oil will freeze and while diesel engines don’t need to be overhauled fuel filters must be changed regularly. Finally if you decide to sell the product a car owner can sue the seller if their engine breaks down.

The alternative fuel is nothing new. In California, biodiesel can be purchased at select gas stations. In France, up to five per cent of diesel sold is biodiesel.

Not only do biodiesel users save at the pump, but they are saving the environment as well. According to Biodiesel Secrets Revealed , the fuel runs cleaner than fossil fuel because no carbon dioxide is released into the environment.

"It costs nothing to make biodiesel," Marcotte said. "You have to make a little bit of an effort, but it is worth it. Everything that comes out of my car is good for the environment."

Join Marcotte at the Hilltrip fundraiser after Enviro Fest Celebrations Saturday, June 10 from 11 a.m. - 4 p.m. in Mountain Square.

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