So here’s a problem I’m running into – where do I get the vegetable oil I’ll need to run the car and will it be cheaper than gas?
Finding a bulk vegetable oil distributor is difficult. I’ve called the local McDonald’s/Burger King/Wendy’s restaurants and the managers there have been surprisingly helpful. I was very surprised that they not only gave me the names of their suppliers (and in some cases their phone numbers), but not one of them asked me what I was doing. I was prepared to lay out my whole story so they wouldn’t feel uncomfortable that they were helping their competition, but none seemed to care!
Armed with the contact information from the fast food joints, I called around but none of the suppliers has called me back. Granted, I was doing my shopping on Memorial Day which might not have been the smartest move…
In the meantime, I’ve been looking at the local grocery stores as a last resort. I also joined both Costco and Sam’s Club (for unrelated reasons) so I looked into those as well. If you’re going cross country in your greasecar and aren’t planning on filling your trunk with a supply of oil, here’s what you can expect to pay in my area:
Albertsons has a “Club pack” of soybean oil – 128 fl oz (1 gallon) for 6.29. That’s $6.29/gallon.
Sam’s Club has a 1.25 gallon jug of Wessson vegetable oil for $5.09. That works out to $4.07/gallon.
Finally, the listing that has me most intrigued is also at Sam’s Club – a 35 pound jug of clear frying oil for $13.97. Based on some quick internet research, I’ve found that rapeseed oil weighs about 7.6 pounds per gallon. Assuming the same for the fryer oil, the jug contains about 4.6 gallons of oil. That works out to just over $3/gallon. Edit: Here’s some post-publication research on how much vegetabel oil weighs.
The $3/gallon figure doesn’t quite measure up to today’s gas prices, but keep the following in mind:
- Gas will be going over $3/gallon in the next year. Drivers in Amsterdam and other parts of Europe already pay well over $6/gallon.
- This pricing is based off of local store shelf prices, not bulk retailers. Buying in bulk has the potential to bring the price down dramatically (more on that to come).
- Vegetable oil is a renewable resource as opposed to petroleum of which there is a finite amount. While we can expect petroleum prices to rise as the sources deplete, it’s possible that prices for vegetable oil will decrease as it becomes a more mainstream fuel alternative – increased production efficiency, distribution refinement, etc.
- Finally, wouldn’t you rather pay American farmers for vegetable oil than Arab sheiks for petroleum? Dependence on foreign oil is slowing diplomatic gains for America across the board. I won’t bore you with the politics, but take a moment to think on the big scale what would happen if the price of a barrel of crude wasn’t all we heard about on the news.
My apologies for the rant. If you hear of a good source of veggie oil, please let me know.