Skip to comments.A price to pay for alternative fuels (man fined for not paying motor fuel tax)
Posted on 06/12/2007 11:54:15 AM PDT by LibWhacker
THOSE WHO MAKE THEIR OWN ENVIRONMENT-FRIENDLY GAS CAN AVOID PAIN AT THE PUMP BUT NOT THE TAXES.
Bob Teixeira decided it was time to take a stand against U.S. dependence on foreign oil.
So last fall the Charlotte musician and guitar instructor spent $1,200 to convert his 1981 diesel Mercedes to run on vegetable oil. He bought soybean oil in 5-gallon jugs at Costco, spending about 30 percent more than diesel would cost.
His reward, from a state that heavily promotes alternative fuels: a $1,000 fine last month for not paying motor fuel taxes.
He's been told to expect another $1,000 fine from the federal government.
And to legally use veggie oil, state officials told him, he would have to first post a $2,500 bond.
Teixeira is one of a growing number of fuel-it-yourselfers -- backyard brewers who recycle restaurant grease or make moonshine for their car tanks. They do it to save money, reduce pollution or thumb their noses at oil sheiks.
They're also caught in a web of little-known state laws that can stifle energy independence.
State Sen. Stan Bingham, R-Davidson, is known around Raleigh for his diesel Volkswagen fueled by used soybean oil. The car sports a "Goodbye, OPEC" sign.
"If somebody was going to go to this much trouble to drive around in a car that uses soybean oil, they ought to be exempt" from state taxes, he said.
The N.C. 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.
But officials say they'll keep pursuing taxes on all fuels used in highway vehicles. With its 29.9-cent a gallon gas tax, the state collects $1.2 billion each year to pay for road construction.
"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."
Use promoted, little regulation
State policies firmly endorse alternative fuels.In 2005 legislators directed state agencies to replace 20 percent of their annual petroleum use with alternatives by 2010. About 6,000 of the state's 8,500 vehicles are equipped to use ethanol. The state fleet also includes about 135 gas-electric hybrids.
Few states, however, are prepared to regulate the new fuels, says the National VegOil Board, which promotes vegetable oil fuel.
"State offices do not have the forms to appropriately and fairly deal with VegOil, nor the staff to enforce the non-existent forms," said director Cynthia Shelton. "So either they tell people inquiring about compliance to get lost, or they make them jump through a bunch of arbitrary hoops."
Outraged Illinois legislators this spring quickly waived that state's $2,500 bond requirement when an elderly man was nabbed for using waste vegetable oil.
In the mountain district of state Sen. John Snow, D-Cherokee, home-brewed ethanol was once known as moonshine. But a couple of constituents who made it for fuel have been fined for the same tax violation that got Teixeira in trouble.
Snow has introduced several bills to promote biodiesel, which under state law includes vegetable oil.
"One of the biggest problems in the state is a real lack of information for people who want to use alternative fuels," said Snow's research assistant, Jonathan Ducote. "It's just now appearing on (regulators') radar."
Done in by bumper sticker
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.
The investigators quickly spotted Teixeira's passing bumper sticker: "Powered by 100% vegetable oil."
"It was like some twist of fate that put me there," he said. "It was like I was asking for them to stop me."
Teixeira says revenue officials are just doing their jobs. But he thinks it's unfair that he was lumped with people who purposely try to avoid fuel taxes.
"Individuals who are trying to do the right thing environmentally cannot and should not continue to take this kind of financial hit," he wrote Gov. Mike Easley.
Teixeira says he'll pay the state fine and apply for a state fuel license. But pumping regular diesel again "broke my heart."
"I'm ready to get myself legal," he said, "and start using vegetable oil again."
Alternative Fuel Vehicles*
North CarolinaDiesel 118,479
Flex fuel 121,547
Flex fuel 68,303
*Registered as of July 2006
SOURCE: Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers
More on Fuel Taxes
Piedmont Biofuels, a biodiesel cooperative in Pittsboro, posts links to state tax laws on its Web site: http://biofuels.coop/general
-information/taxes//. The N.C. Department of Revenue's motor fuels tax division has a toll-free number: 877-308-9092.
This is outrageous!
Taxes are the mother’s milk for Government. as the saying goes there only two certainties in life: Death and Taxes.
Note to self - don't brag...
Sorry but enviro-freaks are not above the law. they use the highways so they need to pay the taxes that help maintain them the same as the rest of us do.
What in the heck is "illegal fuel"? Does NC have a ban on out-of-state diesel?
Using that line of thinking, people who buy off the internet tax-free are also shirking their civic responsibility.
That is Nonsense.
Sooo, do we conserve or use with abandon?
Off road diesel that does not include the tax in the sales price and is died red so that it can be recognized an fuel that was not taxed for road use.
Only a “by the book” bureaucrat could look at his situation and say that he should be penalized for not paying taxes for fuels he didn’t need to purchase.
Only a “by the book” bureaucrat could look at this and not realize this is a creative idea ,but instead only think about the tax revenue the government allegedly lost because he’s not buying gasoline.
You can get fuel for generators and farm use that is dyed differently to indicate its tax status. For example, you aren't allowed to buy fuel oil for your "furnace" and pump it into your diesel car.
"Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." - Manuel II Palelologus
I am amazed that some people here would actually argue that he needs to pay taxes.
I can only explain it as the “us versus them” syndrome.....as people endeavoring in this type of work are probably (likely?) to the left of the political spectrum, posters here will seek to punish them without regard to the facts.
Let me guess - revenue agents don't need PC to ask you to open your fuel tank.
So does this mean that if I decide to bicycle to work and school 100% and use 0 fuel of any kind (except calories), but still use the same roads, then I should expect multiple fines for not paying fuel taxes?
It’s perfectly ironic for it explains in a single instance the gulf between the people and the state; whenever a professional polition or a crusader tells you that his mission is to help, serve and protect you, you now know that his true purpose is to control you and those like you.
They stick a cloth into the gas fill line into the tank. Very typical for them to show up at farm events like cattle auctions where there is a gathering of vehicles with owners who have access to non-taxed fuel. They typically do not ask permission first but go down the parking row checking every truck. A little of that dye goes a long way. Using a gallon could keep your fuel noticeably died through a couple fill ups if you never took your tank below half full.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.