The Smell of Terrorism
To immediately clear up any confusion, our new car is older than our old car. Our old car is a 1981 Mercedes Benz 240D, D standing for diesel. The new car is a 1980 Mercedes Benz 300TD station wagon, TD standing for touring diesel. Over a year ago I converted our old car to run on straight vegetable oil. To clarify a second matter of confusion, vegetable oil and biodiesel are not the same. Biodiesel is a processed mixture of diesel and vegetable oil. Most biodiesel is B20, meaning it is 20% bio fuel (vegetable oil) and 80% diesel. Straight vegetable oil is 100% vegetable oil poured straight into the tank.
Now, before you run off and turn out your frying pan into your gas tank, vegetable oil fuel only works in diesel vehicles. In fact, diesels were designed by Rudolf Diesel to run on peanut oil. Important point number one: do not pour vegetable oil in your gasoline tank. If you know diesel tools or vehicles, you know that diesel begins to gel in the cold. Because the fuel doesn’t flow so easily the machines don’t run so smoothly. Vegetable oil suffers the same problem except that vegetable oil gels at a higher temperature than diesel. Because diesel is hard enough to start in the winter, no one outside of Phoenix should pour vegetable oil straight into their factory diesel tank. Important point number two: do not pour vegetable oil straight into your diesel tank. The key is to install (or, in the case of some large trucks, utilize) a separate second tank.
Since points one and two should be clear, we can continue with the story. I collect used vegetable oil from a friendly local restaurant. Note that unlike E85, the vegetable oil I use was not grown intentionally for fuel. I used a waste byproduct that takes food from no one’s mouth. I filter the oil, pour it into my vegetable oil tank, warm up the car, flip a switch, and presto! those diesel fumes are miraculously changed to burnt falafel fumes while I peter down the highway at 30mpg.
I’ve seen people pass me on the highway waving hands in front of their noses. I think of the odor as tailgater repellant. I’ve had just as many people pull up next to me, lean out their windows and say, “Is that car running on vegetable oil? That’s awesome.” Running vegetable oil is wonderful. The vegetable oil costs nothing to collect, very little to filter, and offers more than diesel. You achieve the same miles-per-gallon, same power, vegetable oil runs cleaner, it’s a renewable resource, and it was headed to the garbage heap anyway. This is better than recycling! Last summer I drove from Weiser, Idaho, home of the National Old-time Fiddler’s Contest, to Englewood, Colorado, home of John and Coco Reinhart and a small menagerie, and the needle for the diesel tank did not budge. That’s 800 miles on vegetable oil. Whooee!
I know all this emphasis on sustainability, green technology, and conservation is not to everyone’s liking. I understand there are people who believe we have a God-given right to rape and pillage the planet. Look, it’s fine to think that. I just hope I’m nowhere near those people when reality comes barreling into them like a rabid eighteen-wheeler on steroids. I’ll be honest. I challenge myself to respect other opinions, but I repeatedly find that my opinions are the best. I laugh openly at SUV drivers. Think you look good in that Hummer, eh? Pretty soon you’ll have to enjoy looking good without going anywhere. What kind of gas mileage do you get, 5? 10? 15 miles to the gallon? I’d hate to fill up a tank when gas prices hit five dollars a gallon. Oh yeah, and how much did you pay for that monstrosity? The Ford Extinction runs a close second to the wrath I apply against Hummers.
Back to the point. Yesterday as we were driving to school a car pulled passed us. We were running vegetable oil. “Your car smells like shit,” the other driver yelled out his open window.
Honestly! His olfactory senses were clearly untrained. Everyone knows what shit smells like, and most people should know the smell of burnt vegetable oil. Walk by any fast food restaurant and take a whiff. I was appalled at the obvious lack of thought involved in our exchange. Before I could offer a reply, my less than friendly co-commuter passed us. Isn’t that a fitting illustration of modern society? We’re ready to hurl epithets at the slightest provocation, but much too sensitive to wait around and discuss what’s really happening.
I would have loved to continue our conversation. “Yeah? Your car smells like terrorism! How many jihadis do you fund per tank?”
On second thought, perhaps it is just as well that we couldn’t begin a dialogue.
John Reinhart is an arsonist, father of three, and poet. He is a Frequent Contributor at the Songs of Eretz Poetry Review and recipient of the 2016 Horror Writers Association Dark Poetry Scholarship. His work has been nominated for multiple Rhysling and Dwarf Stars Awards. To date, he has penned five collections of poetry. Find his work here and @JReinhartPoet