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Buying & Leasing a Car

Saving the World With French Fries

Justin Carven's business sells kits that let diesel cars run on vegetable oil.

A typical fuel tank holds 15 gallons. Where do people get that much vegetable oil? Most of our customers are using recycled cooking oil from restaurants.

So I can get all the fuel I need at the local fast-food joint? Restaurants can produce as much as 100 gallons of waste oil per week, which they're willing to give away. Plus, the converted vehicles have one tank for diesel and one for vegetable oil -- so you have backup fuel.

How far will a tank take me? Vegetable oil is similar to diesel. Many diesel cars get 40 miles per gallon, so a tank should take you 600 miles.

Will my car smell like fries? It will smell like food cooking, but not what was cooked in that oil.

How much does the kit cost? It starts at $795 and includes a manual and all the parts to install it yourself. To have a professional install it will run $500 to $1,000.

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Is using your kit a violation of the Clean Air Act? Any aftermarket automotive product must go through an evaluation process with the Environmental Protection Agency to be certified -- we're in the process of doing that.

Could customers be fined in the meantime? The EPA has never fined anyone for using vegetable oil.

How many kits have you sold? We've sold about 3,000 conversion kits since I founded the business six years ago. Sales broke $1 million last year.

What are the benefits? Besides cheap fuel, there are incredible environmental benefits. You're putting less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than plants take out.

Is this a step toward curing our "addiction to oil"? I believe so. It's still going to be an addiction; it's just going to be an addiction to something a bit healthier for us. [For more information, go to www.greasecar.com.]

-- Interview by Jessica Anderson