Rabbit with fries, please | TheUnion.com

Rabbit with fries, please

The Union StaffBrett Stigile holds a plastic jug of fryer grease from a Nevada City restaurant. An electric pump in his trunk sucks up the grease, then sends it through a series of filters. Yoko Silk holds a hose that puts the filtered grease into the red fuel tank.
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Brett Stigile nicknamed his 1982 diesel Volkswagen Rabbit the “Greasy Hare.”

The 26-year-old Eugene, Ore., man bought the car two months ago for $700 and rigged it to run on fryer grease he finds behind restaurants.

For six weeks, Stigile has been on a 6,000-mile road trip across the West to draw attention to the benefits of alternative fuel.

“This is old technology. This is not anything new,” said Stigile, who fueled up Monday on fryer grease from Ike’s Quarter Cafe in Nevada City with help from his girlfriend, Yoko Silk, a Nevada County native.

When the 19th century German inventor Rudolph Diesel created the engine that bears his name, he built it to run on peanut oil, not petroleum.

America could benefit by switching to plant-based fuel, reducing its dependence on foreign oil, Stigile said. “Why do we go to war for oil?” he asked.

Another point: each year, the average American vehicle releases its own weight of the global-warming gas carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Running a diesel engine on vegetable oil from a restaurant fryer also releases carbon dioxide. But the plant-based fuel is produced from fields of crops that gobble up carbon dioxide during photosynthesis, helping recapture the carbon that gets released, Stigile said.

Studies show emissions from fryer grease are less toxic than standard diesel fuel emissions, said Stigile.

As for the odor from the tailpipe, “It smells like a flame-broiled Whopper,” he said.

Stigile’s car runs mainly – but not entirely – on restaurant grease. He switches between it and a tank of biodiesel, a commercially refined, plant-based fuel available at just a few locations.

It’s necessary to use biodiesel until the car engine heats up.

Stigile and Silk have mainly camped and stayed with friends. But they got a motel room in Durango, Colo., after hearing of bear activity there.

“We figured our car smelled enough like hamburger. We didn’t really want to camp next to it,” Silk said.

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