Revolutionary’ farmer arrested for driving vegetable-powered truck

John Lichfield in Paris

A French farmer faces prosecution for driving on public roads in a vegetable-powered truck.

Olivier Lainé, a cereals farmer based near Rouen in Normandy, believes he will go down in history, not as a criminal, or tax-evader, but a “revolutionary”.

M. Lainé, 49, was arrested near his farm by French customs officers. He faces prosecution for driving a vehicle powered by an “unauthorised fuel” - namely pure vegetable oil, made from colza, or rape seed, grown on his own farm.

An EU directive passed last year instructs member states to encourage the use of pure vegetable oil as a form of fuel for diesel-powered vehicles. Paris has failed so far to translate the directive into law.

“They say that I am breaking the law. I say that they are breaking European law,” M. Lainé said. “We will see who is right. What I am doing will be seen as the beginning of a revolution. The world is short of fossil fuels. It has a surplus of agricultural produce. Using pure vegetable oil as a fuel can make a small contribution to solving both problems.”
M. Lainé is spokesman within the département of Seine-Maritime for the militant small farmers’ union, the Confédération Pay-sanne. The union accused the French government yesterday of “hypocrisy”.

Paris talks of making a contribution to a cleaner environment, the union said, but blocks local initiatives to use pure vegetable oil.

The use of vegetable oil as fuel is authorised for vehicles while operating on a farm. It is illegal to drive vegetable-powered vehicles on public roads because no tax has been paid on the fuel.

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