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NC Man Fined For Using Vegetable Oil As Fuel 909

Posted by kdawson
from the can't-believe-it's-not-butter dept.
mdsolar writes "The News and Observer reports on an Charlotte, NC driver who has been fined $1000 for not paying a fuel tax when he fills his tank with vegetable oil. Perhaps the funniest quote is this one: '"With the high cost of fuel right now, the department does recognize that a lot of people are looking for relief," said Reggie Little, assistant director of the motor fuel taxes division. "We're not here to hurt the small guy, we're just trying to make sure that the playing field is level."' Sure, since the field is so plainly tilted against Arab oil interests."
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NC Man Fined For Using Vegetable Oil As Fuel

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  • Regardless (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Antony-Kyre (807195) on Tuesday June 12, 2007 @11:58PM (#19486479)
    Regardless of whether the law is against him or not, the very fact the state is going to fine him is going to be bad press for the state itself.
    • by drgonzo59 (747139) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @12:34AM (#19486829)
      bad press for the state itself.


      So what? The people will move out of the state because of it? Someone who has a good job, children in school and family members will decide to move because the state fined someone $2k for using unauthorized fuel? What else would happen, the state will be ranked last on 'environment friendly states' list? In other words, the state is not the same as a company, a state's bad image is harder to link to immediate loss of profits.

      • by Antony-Kyre (807195) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @12:40AM (#19486877)
        Depending on the state legislature, it may or may not end up pushing some citizens to contact their state legislators to provide an exemption.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Gyga (873992)
          I live in NC, most people won't even find out about this. The biggest paper "The Charlotte Observer" doesn't carry this type of news. The TV news won't carry this. No one will know and those who do are apathetic. The ones that aren't apathetic hate anything remotly tree-huggerish. I have been insulted because of my eco-councious actions even when they weren't affecting anyone.

          Few people are going to hear or do anything. To bad this happened right when I was starting to think better of my state.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ricree (969643)
        Fortunately, the options people have are a slight bit more subtle than that. There is a middle ground between apathy and packing up and moving out.
      • by billstewart (78916) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @01:27AM (#19487189) Journal
        While this is the first time I've heard of a fine for using biodiesel, there are a lot of states that will fine businesses and sometimes individuals for using home heating oil instead of regular diesel. It's the same reason - highway taxes - and they don't whine about "level playing fields", they just say they want the money. There isn't much difference between some grades of diesel and heating oil - diesel may or may not have some additives in it, and some states will put colored dye in them so you can tell them apart and bust gas stations that sell heating oil as diesel.


        Back when I lived in New Jersey, I had oil heat, and if I'd forgotten to check the oiltank dipstick in a while and ran out of oil at night, I could get a can of diesel at the gas station to restart my furnace until the oil people could get there. It was really convenient.

        • by grahamsz (150076) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @02:20AM (#19487465) Homepage Journal
          There are a few gas stations near me that sell actual biodiesel.. presumably that's properly taxed.

          I imagine he's being hit by the same kind of statute that would stop you using red or farm diesel in your car.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Antony-Kyre (807195)
          In all fairness, it would probably be a much wiser decision to do taxes on the vehicle and eliminate fuel taxes altogether. Then we could really make taxation progressive by taxing the percentage of the vehicle's value to bring in the necessary revenue.

          In my state, we have fuel taxes and taxes on vehicles. Of course, the taxes on vehicles are more or less flat, so a vehicle worth $50k will pay the same tax as a vehicle worth $7k.
          • by onsblu (1047608) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @03:56AM (#19487901)
            Singapore takes a similar approach, however, it is also easier to get by without a car in city-state. American cities could probably benefit from the congestion tax implemented in London, which applies to cars in the city during business hours; I know that NYC is looking into this. One major problem with taxing either gas or cars is that it is a regressive tax. Besides, it doesn't matter just how fuel efficient or expensive a car is, what matters is the emissions created during its use (and production). A carbon tax addresses these issues, because it is intended to be a revenue neutral tax, in which the money that is collected from corporations selling energy of fuels to consumers is returned when consumers file for taxes. This way, individuals can make their own short-term (driving habits) and long-term (car purchases) based on the premise that they can save by cutting down on their carbon emissions. http://www.carbontax.org/ [carbontax.org] By the way, you can't "really make taxation progressive by taxing the percentage of the vehicle's value to bring in the necessary revenue," because that's the same principal as sales tax which is the primary example of a regressive tax.
            • by GundamFan (848341) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @08:23AM (#19489409)
              If a state or city institutes a tax on carbon with the expressed purpose of spending the money neutralizing the taxed emissions it won't take long before the governing body is spending those taxes on other budget items or subsidies for large businesses that have no real benefit for the people paying the "carbon tax".
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Zarf (5735)
      Does it help that the state version of the IRS is trying to get him out of the fine because even the tax man seems to disagree with taxing biodiesel? From the article:

      The state Department of Revenue, which fined Teixeira, has asked legislators to waive the $2,500 bond for small fuel users. The department also told Teixeira, after the Observer asked about his case this week, that it will compromise on his fine.

      Apparently the people responsible for carrying out the fine can't get the people responsible for drafting the laws to lift the fine... typical government run-around.

    • by Original Replica (908688) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @01:05AM (#19487053) Journal
      I hope he pays in pennies. Dumptrucked to the front steps of the courthouse.
  • Biodiesel (Score:5, Funny)

    by narced (1078877) on Tuesday June 12, 2007 @11:59PM (#19486487) Journal
    Does anyone else get hungry when they smell biodiesel exhaust? Reminds me of McDonald's.
  • by bdjacobson (1094909) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @12:00AM (#19486499)
    Damn Yankees.
  • Hell hath NO fury (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WCMI92 (592436) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @12:00AM (#19486507) Homepage
    Like a woman scorned?

    HARDLY.

    That pales in comparison with the fury of a government that isn't getting it's "cut".

    We truly lost our freedoms when it became accepted that the government has an inalienable right to a "cut" of ALL transactions!

    • by Rocketship Underpant (804162) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @01:06AM (#19487061)
      You're absolutely right. I wish I had mod points, and I wish my friends list weren't limited to 200 names -- you deserve a spot.

      Americans have become so used to their loss of freedoms in day-to-day life, they forget how absolutely invasive and totalitarian their government has become. Want to be innovative with your fuel or save a little money? Big Brother didn't get his cut, so here's a fine for $2000, and if you do it again, we'll toss you in jail as a threat to "society". It's just like the mafia telling the new business owner on the block that he needs to pay a hefty protection fee like his neighbours do, and it would be a shame if someone burnt down his shop otherwise.

      The sad thing is, I fully expect to see many misguided Slashdotters stand up for the state here and defend this ridiculous fine.

      • by jgc7 (910200) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @03:37AM (#19487825) Homepage
        The parent comment is nothing more than a troll.

        From the article, The state Department of Revenue, which fined Teixeira, has asked legislators to waive the $2,500 bond for small fuel users. The department also told Teixeira, after the Observer asked about his case this week, that it will compromise on his fine.


        So Big Brother has asked Big Brother to fix a stupid law. Big Brother is also willing to compromise on Big Brother's cut. Seems pretty reasonable to me.

        • by Myopic (18616) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @01:21PM (#19493767)
          The state is willing to compromise on the amount or repayment scheme on an unconscionable fine -- and you think that makes them reasonable? Dude I think you should run for legislature, or are you already too busy being a bureaucrat?

          To me, reasonable would be if they never had the stupid rule to impose the stupid fine in the first place; or never levied the fine, despite the stupid rule, because they know how stupid it is; or if their "compromise" was an apology and release from the citation.
  • Fair enough (Score:5, Interesting)

    by G-funk (22712) <josh@gfunk007.com> on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @12:00AM (#19486509) Homepage Journal
    It's fair enough really. The tax is for road usage, not petrol usage. The bowser is just the fairest place to take it. That's why farmers get to use a "special" coloured diesel that has less tax on it.
    • Re:Fair enough (Score:5, Insightful)

      by timmarhy (659436) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @12:07AM (#19486579)
      no, road use is what vehicle rego is for. This is just petty to the fucking extreme. i wonder how in the world he got done for it in the first place, surely not enough people are doing this for the government to have crack down on it to protect their precious taxes.

      this is all besides the fact that why is it anyones business what i use to run my car? am i dodging fuel taxes by using an electic car?

    • Fair's Fair (Score:5, Interesting)

      by mdsolar (1045926) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @12:13AM (#19486641) Homepage Journal
      NC has a 20.2 cpg subsidy for B20 http://www.globalsubsidies.org/IMG/pdf/biofuels_su bsidies_us.pdf [globalsubsidies.org] which he is not getting since he is buying his oil at the store. Since he is basically using B100, the state should be paying him 5*20.2-29.9(use tax)=71.1 cpg. So, fining him for this seems about as funny as it gets.
      --
      No Joke! Rent solar power and fix your electric rates for 25 years: http://mdsolar.blogspot.com/2007/01/slashdot-users -selling-solar.html [blogspot.com]
    • Not fair. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by twitter (104583) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @12:19AM (#19486699) Homepage Journal

      The tax is for road usage, not petrol usage.

      This is true but charging the biodiesel user hardly "levels the playing field" and the punishment is silly. Big oil people have far greater resources for figuring taxes owed and paying them. If the state wanted to be fair, they could have figured the taxes for him and demanded payment. Slapping him with a fine in excess of what's owed is only something that should be done if he used the kind of scam accounting big oil companies use.

      Something stinks and it's not biodiesel.

    • The "bowser?" (Score:3, Insightful)

      by StarKruzr (74642)
      No, it's not the fairest place. How about tolls?

      Reduce the price of fuel and charge more in road tolls. Now you don't have to worry about discouraging people from using biofuels.
    • Re:Fair enough (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mark-t (151149) <[markt] [at] [lynx.bc.ca]> on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @12:44AM (#19486903) Journal
      If it was for road usage, why aren't cyclists also charged?
      • Re:Fair enough (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Jarjarthejedi (996957) <christianpinch AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @01:45AM (#19487289) Journal
        Uhh, because a bicycle doesn't weigh anywhere near enough to cause damage to a road? Seriously, that's a bit of a duh. That's like asking, well I can't think of a car related metaphor for obvious reasons. But really, the road tax is for repair/upgrade of roads. Repair is needed when cars damage the roads, something bicycles can't do. Upgrades are needed when more cars drive on a road than the road can accommodate, bicycles take up less space so upgrades wouldn't be needed for them.

        My Opinion, this guy should still have to pay the road maintenance tax, but he shouldn't be considered a criminal...
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Xtravar (725372)
        And why don't I get a refund for the gas used mowing my lawn?!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @12:05AM (#19486557)

    revenue investigators were checking fuel tanks of diesel RVs for illegal fuel. The investigators spotted Teixeira's passing bumper sticker: "Powered by 100% vegetable oil."
    They were specifically hunting for individual bio-fuel users to make a point.

    Hopefully they will lose the point in legislature and put the investigators on the unemployment line. Just another version of cops with bad attitudes and power trips.
    • by gone6713 (807581) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @12:48AM (#19486949)
      They weren't hunting for bio-fuel users. The illegal fuel they were looking for was diesel purchased for farm use. When you buy diesel for farm use you don't pay the road taxes on it, which can be around 30 cents a gallon, but you aren't supposed to use it on the road. It is a common thing around where i'm from (Nebraska farm country). They dye the farm diesel so that troopers can tell what type it is.
  • The problem is... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by m0ng0l (654467) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @12:07AM (#19486575)
    That most states use some or all of the fuel taxes to help defray the cost of road improvements / maintenance (no one said they do a *good* job of this) Someone who is "home-brewing" fuel, whether it be bio-diesel, ethanol, or used cooking oil, ends up essentially using the roads for "free" as they don't pay the fuel tax.

    I few options might be to allow home-fuelers to purchase a license (cheap), and be expected to pay more on the yearly state taxes. The license would allow the state to put the tax payment on the honor system (sort of like Michigans' expectation that people will report how much stuff they bought over the internet, and pay the appropriate state taxes on it), with some sort of check. Perhaps a random checking of X percent of the licensees state tax return, and go after the people who didn't pony up. Even go so far as to keep it (relatively) friendly, offer them the chance to pay the extra, no penalty, no crime, if they pay, subject dropped, if not, get mean. By keeping it friendly, there would be the hope of more people switching, get enough people using home-fueling, and then you can start selling licenses for fuel stations, providing alternative fuel(s), and charging the state fuel tax per-gallon, and phase out the licenses at that time.

    While I don't know about the laws here in Michigan regarding this sort of thing, I know they've been floating the idea of doing away with the gas tax, and instead raising the sales tax. The thinking being that this would get visitors from out-state paying a bit more, so even if they don't fill up, they're still paying (some) towards the roads they drive on...
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mrjb (547783)
      Sorry but in this case the state sounds like the RIAA to me. They didn't see the revolution coming and now they're whining for a share.

      Someone who is "home-brewing" fuel, whether it be bio-diesel, ethanol, or used cooking oil, ends up essentially using the roads for "free" as they don't pay the fuel tax. So do pedestrians who walk to the supermarket. Just because they don't drive cars, doesn't mean that they don't use the roads to benefit the transport system. As long as the fuel tax is used what it is i
  • by uncoveror (570620) <webmaster@@@uncoveror...com> on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @12:08AM (#19486591) Homepage
    I thought harassing alternative fuel pioneers was ridiculous when it happened in the UK, [uncoveror.com] and railed against it. Now it is happening in the US too. Oil companies own us like dealers own their junkies. It sucks.
    • by jd (1658)
      • Minimum bond for storing alternative fuels for a car: $2,000
      • Minimum bond for blending any type of fuels for a car: $2,000
      • Minimum bond as a bulk-end user of alternative fuels: $2,000
      • Tax per gallon: 29.9 cents + 7% of average wholesale price + 0.25 cents for inspection

      Assuming that there's no wholesale price for used frying oil, and that you use 10 gallons in a week, your bond is $6,000 and your tax bill is $7,839, giving you a total cost of $13,839

      All things considered, he got off lightly. He could

    • by Gordonjcp (186804) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @02:59AM (#19487635) Homepage
      In July the law is changing over here, so that people producing biodiesel for their own use (and less than some ridiculously huge amount, like 2500 litres) will be exempt from paying fuel duty on it.

      Breaking stupid laws works, people. The sooner the US population wakes up to this idea, the better.
  • by dAzED1 (33635) <brianlamere AT yahoo DOT com> on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @12:13AM (#19486637) Homepage Journal
    ok, media today, we all know, is sensational. They leave out details that would make everything less bad-looking, and stretch details that make things look worse.

    Looking at this, I have to assume such is occuring. Perhaps he's supposed to...no, that doesn't make sense. Maybe he...no, not that either.

    Ok, I give. What am I missing? How in the heck does this actually make sense? I'm generally the one laughing at the conspiracy nuts, and explaining what the news left off that shows that BigBrother isn't actually hell-bent on making your life, specifically, a living hell. You're not so important that it's worth it to go out of the way to monitor every move you make, every call, every email, every purchase, to the nth degree.

    All that withstanding, what the heck? Where's the hole I'm missing?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Zarf (5735)
      All that withstanding, what the heck? Where's the hole I'm missing?

      Actually, it's quite simple. The state wants tax dollars to pay for roads. All cars drive on roads... even bio-diesel cars... from the article:

      With its 29.9-cent a gallon gas tax, the state collects $1.2 billion each year to pay for road construction.

      ...and there certainly is a lot of road construction in this state in response to the mushrooming population. Land prices are still rising fast enough to double every five years due to incessant demand for more housing.

      The unfortunate truth is that governments tend to react slowly and tend to

  • by Fred Ferrigno (122319) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @12:18AM (#19486695)
    C'mon, you could at least mention that the gas tax is really an indirect tax on road use. You might even point out that the fine is intended to offset his use of the NC road system and has absolutely nothing to do with how he fuels his car.

    Do we want to subsidize motorists who use alternate fuels by exempting them from the taxes on road use? Maybe, maybe not. But they're not exempt yet, so this guy has to pay his fair share. Not that surprisingly, really.
  • by Actually, I do RTFA (1058596) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @12:27AM (#19486769)

    ... that he ever filled up his RV in North Carolina?

    I thought criminal matters in the US put the onus on the government to prove that a crime took place, in this case that he had ever purchased biodiseal in North Carolina.

  • humor? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by updog (608318) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @12:27AM (#19486775) Homepage
    wtf is this tagged "humor"?

    It's obviously not a joke, and it's certainly not funny that people who are actually trying to make a difference are getting donkey punched by the local authorities.
  • by narced (1078877) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @12:31AM (#19486801) Journal
    I wonder what the gov'ment will do when people with electric cars who charge off of solar start showing up. Do they tax us for being green just because we are using the roads? Do we get punished like this guy? It seems the whole road tax system is going to have to be revamped in the coming years.
  • by speaker of the truth (1112181) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @12:33AM (#19486823)
    If the government was serious about finding minimizing our dependency on foreign oil then this man would be exempt as he does not use foreign oil. Let's get all non-foreign oil sources (including domestic sources, if at all feasible, I'm not sure if it is) exempt from these taxes, and raise the taxes elsewhere. That way more and more people will avoid foreign oil. Then once we've achieved 0 use of foreign oil, we can start slowly putting those taxes back on, while raising the foreign oil taxes even further and lower the taxes elsewhere (wherever it was increased to make up for the loss of tax from the exemption in the first place) so it will continue to remain profitable to use domestic sources. Then, if its still an issue which I think it will be, we can repeat the entire process with more environmentally friendly fuel methods.

    Or we can keep invading countries and enrichen US companies that import foreign oil.
  • Arab Oil interests? (Score:5, Informative)

    by mr100percent (57156) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @12:33AM (#19486827) Homepage Journal
    "Arab Oil interests?"

    That's a cheap shot at Arabs. And untrue. Did you know [doe.gov] that the top 2 sources of crude oil are Canada and Mexico? Followed by Saudi Arabia and Venezuela? 3 of the top 4 sources of oil are non-Arab.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dcollins (135727)
      You left out a key phrase, "... to the United States".
    • by whitehatlurker (867714) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @12:51AM (#19486979) Journal
      No, no. That's not true. [mystic Jedi hand gesture] All your oil comes from the Middle East. [repeat gesture] There is no country called Canada.

      These are not the oil-rich targets you're looking for.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by cheezedawg (413482)
      Excellent point, except you left off the biggest supplier of oil to the US- the United States! We produce about 40% of our oil needs domestically. The next biggest supplier, as you point out, is Canada, which accounts for a little less than 10% of our oil needs (or around 17% of our oil imports).

      So counting our domestic oil production, over 70% our oil comes from "non-Arab" sources.
  • by bluprint (557000) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @12:41AM (#19486879) Homepage
    to see that the spirit of independence, innovation and entrepreneurship still runs strong in the heart of this great country.
  • Why this happened... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by amper (33785) * on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @01:08AM (#19487073) Homepage Journal
    For those of you wondering why this is even news, refer to the following quote from TFA:

    Teixeira's story began near Lowe's Motor Speedway on May 14. As recreational vehicles streamed in for race week, revenue investigators were checking fuel tanks of diesel RVs for illegal fuel.

    Apparently, the inspectors were looking for people with diesel-engined RV's that may have had dyed diesel fuel (which is not taxed, or taxed at a lower rate than automotive diesel, and is generally used in farm vehicles) in their tanks. They may have also been checking for the use of Low Sulfur Diesel, which is illegal for use in MY2007 diesel engines (which require Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel fuel).

    The race mentioned appears to have been a NASCAR event, which makes you wonder why state inspectors might think that farm diesel might end up in road vehicles there... ;)

    I myself didn't know that there *was* such a thing as "illegal diesel fuel" until I read this article.

    OTOH, this is a ridiculous case that ought to be throw out of court. Just another case of overzealous law enforcement officials tossing their weight around.
  • by ChipMonk (711367) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @01:39AM (#19487257) Journal
    I'm reminded of this quip from my fortunes file:

    "We will have solar energy as soon as the utility companies solve one technical problem--how to run a sunbeam through a meter."
  • by hoover (3292) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @02:03AM (#19487385)
    While not exactly legal over here in Germany either, many people run their Diesel cars on a mix of commercial grade diesel and vegetable oil, which comes even often used from fast food outlets if you can believe it.

    It's quite easy to spot (or smell, rather) these cars when following them as you develop a sudden hunger for french fries out of the blue! ;-)
  • by volpe (58112) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @07:23AM (#19488915)
    do you have to pay fuel tax on whatever you had for breakfast?

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