Pork torque: Bacon grease powers motorcycle engine

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There's a new hog on the road – a Minnesota motorcycle powered by bacon grease.

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The publicity project comes courtesy of Minnesota meat producer Hormel Foods, which partnered with an advertising agency to create the retro-looking bike, ABC 6 News in Rochester reports.

The grease comes from the Austin-based company's Rochelle, Illinois plant, which produces Hormel Black Label Bacon.

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That "100% Black Label" grease is then treated by a biofuels company that converts it into biodiesel fuel to power the motorcycle engine, the station reports. It costs roughly $3.50 a gallon to convert the fuel, which gets about 75 to 100 miles per gallon, ABC 6 News reports.

Hormel is sending the bike on a road trip from Austin to California with a film crew, which plans to put together a documentary in time for the International Bacon Film Festival in San Diego at the end of August. Follow trip progress here.

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You might wonder: Doesn't the running engine smell like bacon?

Yep. But the rider making the trip to San Diego is a "bacon lover," advertising spokesman Scott Schraufnagel told ABC 6 News.

And Hormel spins it this way: "Exhaust you want to eat."

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Grease is the word

Hormel is the latest in a line of other companies and individuals who have outfitted vehicles to run on cooking grease-powered engines. The Toronto Sun just last week profiled a burger joint owner who converted his beat-up old Mercedes Benz to run on the grease from his restaurant's french fries.

To be sure, grease is an abundant fuel source. Hotels and restaurants in the United States generate 3 billion gallons of waste cooking oil per year, the EPA says, which could fill tanker trucks parked bumper-to-bumper from San Francisco to Washington, D.C. and back.

But if you are thinking grease cars sound pretty good (even if they smell kinda bad), be warned that there are some hassles involved.

The website Wise Geek outlines a few, starting with conversion kits that may cost a few thousand dollars (although enthusiasts say you can ultimately save that in fuel costs). Professional installation will run you more. And you'll probably have to sacrifice trunk space for an auxiliary tank.

You'd also have to arrange for a fuel source, which may mean convincing a local restaurant to give you its grease.

Still want to learn more? Consumer Reports earlier this year wrote in depth about its experiment in converting a diesel-powered 2002 Volkswagen Jetta TDI to run on fry grease. One conclusion:

"Our Jetta ran well on the used cooking oil, but the inconvenience of finding fuel sources and preparing the oil for use in the engine limits its appeal and offsets its low price."

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