To-go order easy on the air |

To-go order easy on the air

Gregory Crofton

Neil Young has used it to power a fleet of tour buses. And Dusty Williams just used it to drive back and forth twice to the High Sierra Music Festival in Quincy.

“There’s nothing like passing every gas station and waving at them,” said Williams, 27, a sushi chef who lives at Stateline. “I drive past gas stations and think of buying a Snickers bar.”

Fueling a diesel car with vegetable oil works. It produces less pollution, gets 40 miles per gallon, the same as diesel gas, and provides as much power as diesel fuel.

Kits that allow a diesel engine to be converted to run on vegetable oil are available online for about $850.

“All the conversion does is heat the oil before it enters the engine,” Williams said. “And yes, it does smell like French fries (when it burns).”

Williams gets his oil, all of it already dirty from cooking, free from restaurants. The oil needs to settle for a few days before going into a steel barrel that Williams heats.

The liquefied oil flows through a filtration system on its way into a 12-gallon, red plastic tank that Williams keeps in the bed of his pickup. A plastic tube runs on the underside of his Volkswagen, routing the oil from the tank to the engine.

The only catch in the system Williams uses is that it doesn’t run solely on vegetable oil. It also needs biodiesel, which is vegetable oil thinned by a dose of methanol.

Williams has to start his Volkswagen on biodiesel so the engine can warm up for about five minutes. The biodiesel is stored in the car’s regular fuel tank. Then he flips a switch on his dashboard that sends vegetable oil, which by then is thin enough from the heat of the running engine, to be used in place of the biodiesel.

Williams doesn’t need much biodiesel, but it does cost about $2.75 a gallon and he has to go to Reno to buy it. Williams said newer vegetable oil conversion kits eliminate the need for biodiesel by using heated fuel injectors.

Williams, a certified mechanic in addition to being a sushi chef, said he discovered vegetable oil could be used in place of diesel at the Whole Earth Festival at UC Davis in April 2003.

OK. But what made him decide to search out diesel vehicles and vegetable oil?

“I’m a borderline environmentalist. I live in Lake Tahoe and think it’s a beautiful place,” Williams said. “The main thing is I’m completely petroleum-free. I’m no longer part of that game.”

Williams said he is willing to help people convert their diesel vehicles so they can run on vegetable oil. He has plans to convert Nancy Smyth’s 2003 diesel Volkswagen Jetta soon.

“I’ve known about it for years, but it was just one of those days when I decided to do an Internet search and saw how easy it was to get it,” said Smyth, 29, of South Lake Tahoe, owner of The Dog Wash of Tahoe. “I just know it’s an alternative solution to using up all the fuel that we are … we’re so dependent on the Middle East. And it puts a use to all the waste oil.”

Williams can be reached by e-mail at or at

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