Fish and chips power Raglan family's car

CHRIS GARDNER
Last updated 05:00 17/02/2014
fish and chip fuel
MARK TAYLOR/ Fairfax NZ

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Mark Dobson and son Jack Douglass-Dobson with their car’s fuel, made from the left-over cooking oil from their local fish and chip shop. At left are Dr Heidi Douglass and Daughter Eve Douglass-Dobson.

FISH AND CHIP FUEL
CONVERTED: The adapted diesel fuel tank allows the family’s VW Golf to run on waste products - with no polluting exhaust.

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You can't get more Kiwi than filling up on fish and chips.

But instead of sating Raglan couple Mark Dobson and Heidi Douglass, cooking oil from the local chippie fuels their Volkswagen Golf.

"When German inventor Rudolf Diesel invented the diesel engine way back in 1893, he invented it to run on peanut oil, not fossil fuels," said American born Dr Douglass, a consultant clinical psychologist. "We bought a conversion kit online and my husband installed it in our diesel VW Golf in December 2012."

The $2000 kit, especially designed for Mr Dobson's car, came from Germany and he installed it himself with a little help from his friends.

"Since then we have run our car on waste, using frying oil from Jo's Fish and Chip Shop here in Raglan. We filter the oil and put it in its own separate tank," she said.

"She charges us 20 cents per litre. That is way cheaper than the $1.45 to $1.50 per litre for diesel. We still have to pay the diesel road miles on the car. No way around that.

"Running the car on veggie oil gives the same mileage as diesel, but there is no polluting exhaust, no fossil fuels, no dependence on foreign oil, no environmental risk and veggie oil is described as ‘carbon neutral'. Carbon is released when you burn veggies, but the plant sucked up lots of carbon when it was growing, so it is a wash. We are burning a waste product."

Mr Dobson drives the converted car from Raglan to Hamilton every day and it is still capable of running on diesel too.

"It runs on diesel fuel or veggie oil. We wanted to do this to decrease our dependence on non-renewable energy and fossil fuels. When running on veggie oil, it smells like French fries. This fuel does not contribute to global warming, wars for oil or a need to drill for oil.

"I read in a story prior to 2010 in an American publication called The Natural Farmer that after World War II, when Germany had been bombed to bits, they used to power their city buses with methane from cow manure. They would capture the methane gas in bunkers and pump it into enormous canvas bags that they would pull behind the bus on a trailer.

"Our first vehicle was converted back in 2007 in the USA: a Ford F350 pickup truck. In New England where we lived, you had to heat your entire house in winter or your pipes would burst and explode from the cold. We also converted our home heating system to run on biodiesel (a different technology than our car uses) made from fish and chip oil by a local farmer."

The couple were among the scores of Raglan residents who waved placards from the beach when Texan oil giant Anadarko parked the Noble Bob Douglas about 110 nautical miles west of Raglan to begin drilling New Zealand's deepest exploratory well in November.

They complained it had not been consulted and people turned out in force to voice their dissatisfaction with the Government granting a licence.

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Earlier this month Anadarko said it's $1 million-a-day drilling operation had failed to find commercial quantities of oil and the floating rig packed up and headed to the coast of Kaikoura.

"I am relieved they have gone and they did not create a blow-out prior to leaving," Dr Douglass said.

Anadarko was held liable, with BP, by a United States court for the 2010 Gulf of Mexico spill, in which an estimated 4.9 million barrels spilled over 87 days.

That experience has Dr Douglass thinking about the bigger picture - about why and when people, who she described as creatures of habit, demanded change.

"What factors push people to say ‘I want clean energy and I want it now and I have woken up and taken enough and I can't be quiet any more?'," she said.

The pair would love to convert to solar power.

"I would love to be off the grid and to have solar power in this very sunny location, but there is no government subsidy so I had to say no. A subsidy from the government would help me to get solar. A subsidy from the government for alternative fuelled cars would help get us away from oil. We need the government to be pushed by the people to change course," Dr Douglass said.

"We, as a country, are clinging still to outdated fossil fuel technology and the risks it poses for our environment are on a collision course with environmental disaster. If not this time in Raglan, then somewhere else sometime soon. Nothing is worth risking our oceans for."

For the couple, and thousands like them, the fight continues through Kiwis Against Seabed Mining which is opposing Trans Tasman Resources' application to mine the seabed off the South Taranaki Bight.

"We are irritated that we, as a family, might need to take time off work to go to the Environmental Protection Authority hearings in Wellington. We have asked to be able to use Skype or to have a local venue to speak at. We hear they might have a hearing in Hamilton against the seabed mining. We asked to speak out and will do so as a family. If we all four have to cram into the little veggie car for a road trip to Wellington to speak out, then we will do so.

"We have 1000 landfills in New Zealand that could be mined for metal. It is dumb to risk the seabed for it."

- Waikato Times

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