May 9, 2011
Veggie oil fuels savings at pump
Cortland man cuts his annual fuel bill by approximately $2,000
Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Bob Cincotta purchases fuel for his diesel Mercedes-Benz Saturday at a Sunoco station on Route 281 in Cortlandville. Cincotta runs his vehicle on a mixture of gasoline, kerosene and vegetable oil.
Analysts are projecting a downward trend in gas prices, but Bob Cincotta has already discovered a way to sharply cut his fuel bill.
The Cortland resident’s 1993 Mercedes-Benz E300 runs on diesel, vegetable oil and a little gasoline, a combination he said just about halves the cost he pays per gallon with each fill up.
“It costs me about $2 a gallon to make fuel the way I make it,” Cincotta said Saturday while filling up at Sunoco on Route 281 in Cortlandville.
That came in handy in recent months, as well as three years ago, when gas exceeded $4 a gallon, he said.
As of this weekend, regular gasoline in Cortland County cost about $4.07 per gallon, close to the regional average.
The average cost is projected to hit around $3.50 sometime this summer as oil prices this week saw a 15 percent decrease, closing Friday at $97.18 from their two-year high of $114.83, the Associated Press reported this weekend.
But Cincotta decided four years ago he was tired of shelling out more money at the pump. He did some research and picked out a 1993 Mercedes-Benz E300 diesel, which his research revealed could support the conversion to run on vegetable oil.
The process of making the fuel is relatively simple and takes about 20 minutes to complete a full tank’s worth, Cincotta said. He takes raw used vegetable oil from restaurants or hospitals, runs it through filters and blends it with kerosene, diesel fuel or gasoline in a pail. Whichever petroleum product he blends with depends on the time of year, in order to help thin the oil.
“It’s a single tank conversion — I blended about 60 percent vegetable oil, 40 percent petroleum product and there’s a secondary heater under the hood that keeps it warm enough so it runs just like regular diesel fuel,” Cincotta said. “In this car it will take me 750 miles, this car gets almost 35 miles to the gallon.”
The benefits have been clear, he added.
“I save right around $2,000 a year in fuel costs because I drive 500 miles a week,” Cincotta said.
Cincotta is a crew member for local racing team, whose driver — Cortland native Brent Cross — drives in NASCAR races
Some analysts are calling for $5 per gallon gas by summer. Others see signs the price is near its peak.
Cincotta doubts the cost per gallon will surge to nearly $5, but said he remains skeptical that gas prices will soon go down by much, if at all.
“Have you ever seen it go back down once it goes back up?” he said. “It might go down a little bit, back down to $3.50 and we’ll have to be happy at that — I don’t think that’s right at all.”
The plunge in oil prices was part of a sharp sell-off across in commodities this past week. Analysts told the AP that investors — demonized as “speculators” by some market watchers — got nervous that oil, metals and grains had risen over the past few months to unrealistic heights.
Their rush to sell knocked silver prices down 28 percent, sugar down 13 percent and natural gas down 10 percent. While analysts cited reasons specific to each commodity, they had one common explanation for the pullback: the strengthening U.S. dollar.
Commodities such as oil and silver are bought and sold in dollars. When the dollar is weak, those commodities look cheaper to holders of foreign currency so they buy. Conversely, when the dollar rises, commodities look more expensive. So they sell.
Speculators, knowing this, tend to sell commodities and buy dollars if they anticipate the dollar will rise. That amplified this week’s retreat in prices.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
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