Tax man cometh for car that runs on chip fat

The Chancellor of the Exchequer has entered a bizarre dispute with a man who runs his car on old chip pan oil, and claims it is the fuel of the future.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer has entered a bizarre dispute with a man who runs his car on old chip pan oil, and claims it is the fuel of the future.

Martin Steele has discovered how to manufacture a new form of diesel from the oil and runs his Volvo estate on it.

But he has been angered to find the Treasury wants to levy nearly 50p a litre in fuel duty on the brew made in his Manchester back garden, the same as standard diesel, although his "bio-diesel" is acknowledged as a green alternative.

Now Gordon Brown is considering a special tax reduction for the fuel and on Wednesday his officials will meet Britain's handful of bio-diesel manufacturers.

There are just five - including Mr Steele - and they are demanding Mr Brown cuts tax on bio-diesel by a minimum 15p. That would give a fillip to the nascent industry and lead to the fuel being sold at petrol stations for as little as 40p a litre.

Proponents of the new fuel, made from recycled vegetable oil, claim it is carbon neutral because it absorbs as much of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide as it produces. Nor does it rely on dwindling, underground oil reserves because the fuel is a by-product of crops such as oil seed rape.

Greenpeace has just lodged an order for 1,000 litres of fuel from a firm called Ebony Solutions, the only commercial manufacturer of bio-diesel in the UK.

The firm, based in Cheshire, produces 20,000 litres a week of bio-diesel by recycling vegetable oil donated by Sharwood's, the food manufacturer. The oil is left over from its mass production of its popular range of poppadoms. Mr Steele's oil comes from more humble origins, his local chippy and kebab shops, who give it free.

But he is not fussy about the source of his car's propulsion, merely evangelistic about its benefits. A sign in large yellow letters in the car's rear windscreen proclaims: "This car runs on fuel made from recycled vegetable oil".

Mr Steele says: "There is an enormous reservoir of waste vegetable oil out there. I make my fuel from waste oils taken from canteen refectories, chip shops and other fast-food outlets such as kebab bars."

Mr Steele became aware of bio-diesel after watching an item on alternative fuels on the children's television programme Newsround.

He began experimenting in his mother's garage before building a "catalytic cracker" in his backyard - a sort of large vat - in which he converts the vegetable oil into diesel. In the two years since he perfected his technique, his car has travelled 18,000 miles on used chip pan oil.

Representatives of the nascent bio-diesel industry will meet Stephen Timms, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, on Wednesday to stake their case for a reduction in tax.

They will try to persuade the Government that a tax reduction will make the fuel attractive to commercial manufact- urers while helping to end the West's reliance on Opec's oil-pricing cartel. At present they pay 48.8p per litre.

It could also boost Britain's farming industry six weeks after farmers and road hauliers brought the country to its knees by blocking oil depots.

Estimates show 5 per cent of Britain's diesel could be manufactured in the UK through vegetable oil crops such as rape seed, providing a huge financial benefit to farmers. Terry de Winne, a 60-year-old hovercraft engineer, is also making bio-diesel at his workshop in Bangor in Northern Ireland. He began experimenting with alternative fuels after receiving a Millennium Commission grant to investigate sustainable forms of energy for transport. What he came up with is bio-diesel.

"It is the only viable, available and sustainable transport fuel," he says. He hopes to set up four large scale bio-diesel plants in Northern Ireland but needs the Chancellor to bring down tax to make it economically attractive.

A Treasury spokeswoman confirmed that Mr Brown is reviewing the level of taxation on bio-fuels in the run-up tohis pre-budget report due next month, and the Department for the Environment is examining its environmental benefits.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
Starting the day with a three-egg omelette could make people more charitable, according to new research
science
News
Top Gun actor Val Kilmer lost his small claims court battle in Van Nuys with the landlord of his Malibu mansion to get back his deposit after wallpapering over the kitchen cabinets
people
News
Comedian Ted Robbins collapsed on stage during a performance of Phoenix Nights Live at Manchester Arena (Rex)
people
News
The actress Geraldine McEwan was perhaps best known for playing Agatha Christie's detective, Miss Marple (Rex)
peopleShe won a Bafta in 1991 for her role in Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
News
newsPatrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
News
Robert Fraser, aka Groovy Bob
peopleA new show honours Robert Fraser, one of the era's forgotten players
Life and Style
Torsten Sherwood's Noook is a simple construction toy for creating mini-architecture
tech
Sport
David Silva celebrates with Sergio Aguero after equalising against Chelsea
footballChelsea 1 Manchester City 1
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links