Plantoil/diesel conversion basics
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danalinscott

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Reply with quote  #1 

Part 1

("Before there were vendors")

The VO fuel conversion community began on the Internet.
Before  web based discussion forums allowed easy fast communication and discussion  of VO fuel technology there were individuals who had been experimenting with using VO fuel for nearly 2 decades but had not way to share what they were learning with others...or to learn from others similar experiences.  Public information on VO fuel research was also very difficult to find further slowing the progress of those who wanted to develop techniques to use this alternative fuel both for personal and commercial reasons. This limited the level of technological progress so much that few if any interested individuals were able to progress much beyond the "hobbyist" level. 

But forums like the Infopop SVO forum (which was originally a small side forum of the Infopop Bio-diesel forum) changed that dramatically. With the availability of easy and quickly returned worldwide communication those "hobbyists" quickly learned from each other. There was a camaraderie among these early hobbyists that was based on a willingness to help the growing VO fuel community by sharing most of what each learned individually with the group via forum disclosure and discussion. A few individuals participating in ..or even just watching ..these early technical discussions could easily see the economic potentials associated with VO fuel due to ever increasing fuel prices. I was one of them.



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Reply with quote  #2 
Part 2
("A small group starts a new (cottage) industry")

I had been "puttering" with VO fuel off and on for several years by the time I found my first Internet discussion (Yahoo-group) "board" with a few other similar individuals discussing the technical aspects of converting diesel engines to VO fuel. One of them was Ed Beggs (the founder of PlantDrive International(formerly Neoteric Fuels)) who had used the viability of VO fuel as the basis for a business for the subject of his masters thesis. Soon thereafter he began selling the components for converting small diesel engines to VO fuel. We both soon found that the owner of the Yahoo-group was mainly interested in bio-diesel and so chose to mainly post on the small side forum on the Infopop Bio-diesel forum.  Soon a third individual who was starting a "conversion kit" company (Golden Fuel Systems(formerly Greasel)) joined in the discussions as well. A fourth individual chose to start his own VO fuel discussion as a promotional device for his new conversion kit company (Greasecar). These three companies (Neoteric, Greasel, and Greasecar) competed with the European conversion kit maker Elsbett who had been researching VO fuel conversion for decades and was..and still is..the largest conversion kit company in the world. None of the conversion kits that these North American (Neoteric was Canada based) kits companies could hope to compete with Elsbett based on quality or technological advancements...so they were forced to compete for customers based mainly on price.

In order to do so they had to avoid the costs associated with research and development of individual components. So for the most part these early kits were composed of "off the shelf" parts discovered by early hobbyists and shared on the public discussion forums with other hobbyists. I was very tempted to start a conversion kit company at that time as well....even though I was on the verge of retirement. It was after all pretty simple to buy parts wholesale and combine them together into a kit that sold for 2 or 3 times what the individual parts did. But I did not. I was really looking forward to retirement and was not all that interested in starting a new business just to make money. And I noticed that once an individual became a Kit Vendor they stopped contributing to the knowledge base being shared on the public discussion forums and the momentum of the Research and development discussion driven by VO conversion community of "hobbyists"  slowed each time. 

It was that very discus ion that had allowed VO conversion technology to advance more in one year at the grassroots level than 4 years of govt funding had 10 years earlier.  I hated to see that momentum lose simply because there was now the option of buying a "kit" available. There was so much more research and development to do ... and it was very apparent that if this discussion faltered the R&D momentum that had developed because of it would falter along with it.  I decided that rather than apply my time to starting a new business that competed with the new kit vendors I would use my time and expertise to encourage those with an interest in independently experimenting with VO fuel to do so. I believed that the existing momentum was based almost entirely on the enthusiasm of "hobbyist" who were willing to share what they learned while experimenting with other hobbyists. This also allowed me to retire as I had planned and enjoy not having to go to work every day with the option of spending any amount of time I wished on "puttering around" doing VO fuel conversion research.  The problem was..after 30 years of working I found I felt compelled to accomplish something useful every day. The cost of "puttering" began to eat into my savings at a speed which my investment advisers warned was unsustainable...unless I planned on dying earlier than I had "planned for".  And THAT was definitely NOT in the plan.
I decided to split what my R&D efforts developed into what I shared for free on the discussion forums..and what I shared for a small fee to help pay for the supplies I used in my "puttering around with VO fuel".   I released my first "how-to file" on how to easily fabricate a simple and inexpensive WVO prefilter/dewatering unit. Up to that point most were simply filtering wvo and using it as fuel...but my R&D had revealed that even very small amounts of water suspended in VO could significantly damage injector pumps and injectors and that most of the WVO fuel being used had more water suspended in it to cause this damage.  In retrospect I realize that most people buying that file (and the others that followed) were willing to pay much more than what I was charging...but the price was based on simply covering my research costs...not making a profit.


I was amazed at how many individuals were interested in paying that small fee to get a head start on making their own VO conversion kits. Soon I was deluged with requests for help by other hobbyists...and had to change my phone number or resign myself to constantly answering the phone.  I decided that there were two groups of individuals who were seeking my help, a larger one that simply wanted to convert their diesel to VO fuel and a small one that was mainly interested in developing new VO conversion technology.  The first group tended to ask the same basic questions over and over...and so I responded by trying to answer them only on the Infopop SVO forum so others that had the same questions later could easily find the information  I could provide (and hopefully additional information provided by other experienced hobbyists).  The second much smaller group were individuals whose main interest was serious research and development of VO fuel processing and conversion technology. I tended to learn as much from these folks as they learned from me and so I tried to respond to their emails personally.  This worked pretty well for about a year...then the interest in VO fuel mushroomed and the discussions on the Infopop forum changed dramatically. Part of this was due to the sheer number of individuals now posting on the Infopop forum...and part was due to the fact that the owner moderator showed almost no interest in moderating the SVO forum as his main interest was in bio-diesel.  As a result the discussions which had for the most part remained civil and linear/on topic began to get more and more off topic and less and less civil.  Both of these trends led to fewer and fewer discussions producing useful information and more and more "flame fests" breaking out among those with differing points of view.  The forum also had a very ineffective "search" function and this led to more and more repetitive posts by "newbies" asking for very basic information...and this tended to disrupt the technical discussions even more.

I found that the volume of email from the "first group" increased in an exponential manner and tried to deal with this by asking for a more active Infopop moderator over and over...to no avail. So I suggested that a "sticky post" be created that answered most of the basic questions...and was told..go ahead. The result was the first of several versions of the "10 steps to a basic conversion" tutorial that resides on the top of the Infopop forum to this day. This took care of the majority of the basic question posts by "newbies" and in some part lowered the tension between the newbies and the "old hands" on the Infopop forum. This and the fact that a moderator was appointed to "put out" flame fests helped the developing VO communities ability to communicate  for about a year..and then the existing vendors began to use the Infopop SVO forum as an advertising venue for their products.



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danalinscott

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Reply with quote  #3 
Part 3
("The VO conversion industry hits a few snags")
At about the time that conversion kit vendors began to heavily use the Infopop (and every other VO fuel discussion forum) as their main form of advertising there was a new group of individuals who also saw the possible income potential of selling VO conversion kits and components. A new "kit" vendor website would appear about one every ten days and often (but not always) the information presented on these new vendors websites clearly indicated that they were not even at the "knowledgeable hobbyist" level yet. But..they offered cheaper kits and the existing kit vendors bean to feel the squeeze as potential customers failed to see any significant difference between what the "established" kit vendors were offering and the kits the "new guys" offered.  Some in fact turned out to be pure scams ..but most of the "new guys" were trying to offer a good product at a lower price. The problem was the existing vendors had already cut their price to compete with each other so much that in order to lower their price further most of the new guys had to cut quality. And there was not much room for that option since most of the existing kits were of fairly low quality already.  Existing kit vendors reacted in two ways.

Some simply ignored the "new guys" and increased conventional advertising strategies. Well ..only  one actually...Greasecar.  The rest began a battle of escalating (and unrealistic) claims that their products were better because "fill in the blank".  In truth at that time nearly all kits were very primitive and no one ..including the vendors really KNEW if most of the claims they were making were true.  however as the "advertising war" escalated it soon became obvious that many of the claims posted by vendors on their own websites AND the Internet discussion forums were false. I requested privately that vendors stop presenting information in advert sing  that would lead customers and non customers alike to damage their engines. The response was underwhelming. So I asked them to do so publicly.

That may have been an error on my part as it resulted in making some very intense and long term enemies of those whose ethics were called into question. But frankly I don't know what other effective options I had. One of the most vocal was an individual who had purchased half of an existing vendor (Neoteric) and was promoting the heck out of its products to the point that no newbie could post without being subjected (along with the rest of the forum participants) to a long (and often misleading) advertisement for his products. The only problem with this was he simply had no ethical prohibitions against making ANY claim if it resulted in a sale.  Eventually this proclivity led to the division of Neoteric/Plantdrive at the request of the founder and the partnership was essentially ended.

At around this same time as many of the "new guys" were closing up shop/websites each month as were opening them..signaling market saturation for the still rapidly growing VO Conversion kit market. A few managed to stay in business for more than a year by either concentrating on unbelievably low priced conversions or very high quality ones. When approached by any new VO conversion business I tended to respond with "I am more than willing to help you but only if you can explain to me what you bring to the VO fuel community that is not already available."  Most did not respond to this reply..but a few did.  Those that responded were mainly interested in developing better VO conversion components save for one ... Frybrid.  All of those I chose to help (usually at no charge) exhibited a willingness to share some of their time "giving back" to the growing VO fuel community and pledged to adhere to a high ethical standard. And with very few exceptions they have followed through with those commitments.

At the same time I had found that there was a huge market that non of my peers was serving...and decided to serve it myself. Within 2 months I was no longer semi-retired as I was putting in more than 60 hours a week providing consultation services to truck fleet owners that were exploring the option of converting their fleets to VO fuel in an effort to save money on continually rising fuel costs. I had decided that since I did not need the cash flow I would make them an offer that was hard to refuse. If they did not save money long term...I made nothing...but if they did I would receive a % of those savings for a very long time. This was a convincing offer to individuals who were already considering taking the risk and paying a kit vendor to allow them to do so. It also made some vendors very angry with me since once I had established that there was a huge market for conversions they had not explored...they were almost completely unable to capitalize on it without also being willing to take the same risk as I was.  A few tried and failed...and this did not make them less angry. One was a new high quality kit vendor who I referred a truck fleet owner to partly because I had too many clients in the conversion process at that point to take one more on and partly because they were in fairly close proximity. The deal turned out badly and both the fleet owner and the vendor refused to take any responsibility for the debacle...so both ended up blaming me.  As a result I vowed to never refer a potential client to any vendor again.  It seemed like a huge wasted opportunity  but again..I don't know what other option I had.  Most vendors simply do not have the maturity to take responsibility for the results of their own actions IMO and I simply do not see any advantage in helping anyone that cannot. There have been a few high level "hobbyists" that I have referred potential clients to when I have been unable to accept any additional clients. These individuals seem to deal with the opportunity in a more ethical and responsible manner.

The most recent snag the VO conversion industry has run into is that despite a decrease in the number of "new guys" and a continual increase in the number of potential customers they still fight each other (too often using very childish methods) for customers.  I have approached them all either by email or in person trying to explain to them that the customer base would grow by leaps and bounds if they would either choose to work together or (failing that) simply ignore each other completely. And those that have chosen to do so have discovered that I am correct. The rest appear to blame me for their lack of success as I still spend a significant portion of my time supporting potential competitors and individuals who wish to make their own conversions from scratch. They clearly feel for the msot part (with a few exceptions) that any kit sold by a competitor or made from scratch by an individual is a kit they did not generate a profit from.  I do not understant this feeling of "entitlement"...but do understand I have little tolerance for it.


 

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danalinscott

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Reply with quote  #4 

Part 4

("The VO conversion industry cuts is own throat")
Or "How kit vendors think they OWN the VO conversion  community"

A few years ago in individual approached me about starting an Organization designed to unify the individuals in the VO conversion community AND the conversion kit and component vendors.  My advice was it was a very large task she was considering..probably bigger than she realized...and that while I was not about to discourage her from trying I thought that she would receive very little help from the vendors in creating this organization. Even if she intended to make it an organization that mainly represented the interests of the "industry"  I doubted the individuals that made up the industry would provide much more than lip service.  She however believed that there was enough of a grassroots "movement" at hand that the organization could be upfront about representing the people (rather than the businesses) of the VO fuel conversion community AND succeed. Neither one of us dreamed at that time that several of the individual in the VO conversion industry would actively oppose such an organization from being created..or that once created they would attempt to destroy it. In retrospect we were both naive.

It has become apparent that MANY of those kit vendors feel entitled to ALL of the "fruits" created by the VO conversion community. If an engine is to be converted they feel ENTITLED to profit on that conversion even though almost to a man they have done  NOTHING to contribute to the growth of that community themselves.

They do not want a competitor to profit from it.
They do not want an individual to profit from their own ingenuity and labor.
They do not want the technology of VO conversion to advance unless they can profit from it.

This is not only greed taken to its' extreme..it is ultimately the seeds of their own demise.  For in concentrating on the short term profit they have not only created minor problems for the VO community in general they have forgotten that a HUGE problem stands on the horizon. This is a problem that they cannot hope to counter individually. They must both band together AND enlist the help of the VO fuel community to overcome this Juggernaut.  Yet they have not only destroyed the probability that they will ever be able to work together...they have destroyed the organization that might have been able to provide the unified support of the VO community when it is needed in less than 5 years.  Greed and ambition apparently makes one blind to long term reality.

Or maybe they simply realized that they have no long term future and believed that a strong grass roots organization would only serve to shorten the time they have left. It is interesting AND revealing to realize that a few vendors at least paid lip service to that organization  until it turned its attention to the matter of VENDOR ETHICS. For it was at that point that nearly all of the vendor support for the NVOB  completely disappeared. And HERE I think is the way to determine which vendor has ethical standards ... and which do not.


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justdave

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Reply with quote  #5 
I have two questions.
1. What qualifies YOU to say which vendors are ethcal and which are not?

and
B. What makes a vendor ethical or not in your opinion.


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justdave
danalinscott

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Reply with quote  #6 
Quote:
Originally Posted by justdave
I have two questions.
1. What qualifies YOU to say which vendors are ethcal and which are not?

and
B. What makes a vendor ethical or not in your opinion.



Anyone can tell who is acting in an ethical manner and who is not if they just do a bit of research. I don't think I am especially qualified to do so.  I HAVE had to deal with the subject of ethics more than most I think since I have been interested in the subject since it was first discussed in a high school philosophy class I attended.  I later took a (required) pre-law ethics course and an optional business ethics class in college. But my real education in ethics has been in the nearly 30 years of actually applying them in business.

As to which vendors are ethical and which are not I don't think my opinion is as important as the consensus of the VO conversion community itself. But this is a subject that can no longer be discussed on the Infopop forum since a few vendors will complain so loudly if one attempts to the discussion will be closed. 

Any discussion should probably start with a definition or two:

From Merriam Webster on line:
Quote:
Ethics-the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation

and possibly more applicable
Quote:
the principles of conduct governing an individual or a group ethics>


Since it is professional ethics being discussed here IMO.

Wikipedia says of professional ethics
Quote:
Professional ethics concerns the moral issues that arise because of the specialist knowledge that professionals attain, and how the use of this knowledge should be governed when providing a service to the public


And since  ethical issues  cannot be separated from moral issues here's the Merriam-Webster definition..
Quote:
1 a: of or relating to principles of right and wrong in behavior 
b: expressing or teaching a conception of right behavior  c: conforming to a standard of right behavior
d: sanctioned by or operative on one's conscience or ethical judgment 
e: capable of right and wrong action


In my opinion there is a minimum standard for professional ethics and it boils down to living up to your professional responsibilities.

What are vendors professional responsibilities?
I am sure the list can be much longer..but here is what I consider a minimum:

1.Never misinform a customer or potential customer.

2.Honor your agreements whether with a customer or a competitor.

3.Conduct yourself in a professional manner and extend as much courtesy as possible at all times.

4.Give back at least as much to the community (you depend upon for a customer base) as you take.

Even with such a short list of simple "rules" it is probably not possible for someone to follow them perfectly and without fail. Humans simply are not that perfect.

So don't expect any vendor to live up to them perfectly. I know I can't. What I DO expect is that an ethical vendor will not chronically break them or ignore them simply for the sake of profit.

And this is the easiest way to determine if any vendor is likely to act in an ethical manner with YOU.
Ask yourself these questions:

How often does the vendor appear to act in the general interest as much as they act in their own interest?

How often does the vendor appear to act in an unprofessional manner toward their peers?

How often does the vendor make claims about their product to prospective customers that is clearly not true ?

How often does the vendor appear to not honor/live up to  agreements?



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John_Galt

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Reply with quote  #7 
On various forums I've witnessed some vendors engaging in personal attacks, name calling, and general disrespect of other individuals.  I wouldn't buy anything from a vendor that engaged in that sort of unprofessional activity.  I'd be concerned about spending hundreds or even thousands of dollars and then being treated the same way if problems ever arose due to faulty installation or materials.

There are some who believe that personal ethics are separate from business ethics, I don't agree.  The concept: "That's OK it's just business"  just doesn't cut it.   Honesty, integrity, and respect are a way of life, not something one turns on or off when it's convenient or financially beneficial.

danalinscott

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Reply with quote  #8 

Quote:
Originally Posted by John_Galt

There are some who believe that personal ethics are separate from business ethics, I don't agree.  The concept: "That's OK it's just business"  just doesn't cut it.   Honesty, integrity, and respect are a way of life, not something one turns on or off when it's convenient or financially beneficial.

I agree that there is no way anybody can completely separate the ethics used in their personal life and those they employ  in their business. But I have known quite a few professionals who have what I considered very low standards when it came to their personal ethics and still managed to adhere to a strict set of professional ethics.

I think that as long as a vendor manages to act in a professional manner and display at least a minimal ethical standard  in their business dealings what they do in their personal lives is no customers business. There may be an exception however. When a vendor makes public statements on a forum or elsewhere it is much easier to determine what their personal ethics are...and since the statements are public it also strongly reflects on their  professional/business ethics.

And example of this might be vendors who make very misogynistic public statements. I suspect that very few potential customers who happen to be female choose to buy kits from vendors who do so.

The majority of vendors choose not to post ANY public statements. In fact this is what I advise most of those in the process of developing a component or kit who ask me. The "free advertising" gained by doing so is simply not worth the abuse  by those  who employ smear and personal attack tactics to cripple competitors (or possible competitors).

Should those that regularly make public statements (some  of which might reflect very poorly on their character) be automatically considered a bad risk by potential customers? I'm don't think so.  Certainly one cannot ignore this but assuming that those who choose to simply not provide much in the way of personal information are more (professionally) ethical is not a safe bet either.


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danalinscott

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Reply with quote  #9 

Quote:
The "free advertising" gained by doing so is simply not worth the abuse  by those  who employ smear and personal attack tactics to cripple competitors (or possible competitors).


Talk about timing...
Here is a perfect example of the above.

PlantDrive sells the Fass pump. 
The "Raptor" is a possible competior.

Craig posted this in not just one public discussion on the Raptor...he copied it into several.  Does ANYONE think this  is NOT a clear example of a vendor trying to smear a possible competitors newly released product.

Quote:


Member
Posted 22 February 2008 10:09 PM Hide Post
Could be. But the 23A FASS has been in service for 4+ years, with very few failures, and even though the Raptor also has a 6-year warranty, that doesn't mean that it's fun to pull a pump, send it if for warranty replacement/repair, and run on diesel in the interim, and although it's possible that the smaller and cheaper Raptor will prove to be as reliable long-term as the 23A FASS, and that Raptor's warranty repair/replacement process will be as swift an d painless as that of FASS, early adopters who want to save a few bucks will be taking a chance.

Craig


PlantDriver
http://www.PlantDrive.com
craigreece@plantdrive.com

 


 


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Dana danalinscott@yahoo.com
justdave

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Reply with quote  #10 
A few more questions for you Dana.

Isn't the guy from Palntdrive just trying to make a living by advertising his products in the post you copied?

Do you think you provide a perfect example of vendor ethics for the rest of the VO vendors to follow?

How would YOU use your "rules"  to choose which vendor YOU would buy a kit from?

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Reply with quote  #11 

Quote:
Originally Posted by justdave
A few more questions for you Dana.

Isn't the guy from Palntdrive just trying to make a living by advertising his products in the post you copied?

Craig is doing much more than "just trying to make a living" in his post. He is implying that the pump he sells is more reliable than the one his "competitor" is selling and so worth a bit more. This is very odd since in fact may be less expensive from other vendors than the Raptor.

But you bring up an interesting point. Are not all vendors just trying to "make a living"?   I don't think that really matters when discussing ethics. Does "just trying to make a living" excuse poor ethical standards? I don't think it does...it is just a cop out" some use (in several variations) to avoid having to defend the low ethical  standards they set for themselves. It is possible to " make a living" without having to use such tactics as denigrating a competitor or a competitors product.

Quote:
Do you think you provide a perfect example of vendor ethics for the rest of the VO vendors to follow?
 


LOL NO!. I am not a perfect example of anything.
 I am also not a kit or component vendor.

Quote:
How would YOU use your "rules"  to choose which vendor YOU would buy a kit from? 


Good question.
But this process may not need to involve determining vendor ethics.
Here's what I would do if I needed a conversion kit.
1) I would gather together all of the vendors names on a list.
2) Then I would cross out all of them that don't offer a kit for my vehicle.
3) Then I would take the remaining ones and list the least expensive kits at the top and most expensive at the bottom.
4) Then I would use the comparative charts for kits HERE to determine if all the needed parts to convert my vehicle are included in each of the kits and if they are not in some add on what I estimate they will cost...along with any shipping or "go get it" time may be needed to get those missing parts.
5) Then I would add in those costs so I am comparing "apples to apples" and  change the order if any of the adjusted costs made "less expensive" kits  more expensive.
6)  It is at this point I would begin to look for complaints from former customers about customer service on the forums. Perhaps even post a "Please contact me privately if you have had a bad experience with any of these vendors" (posting the names of any of the vendors which remain on your list). "I am trying to choose a kit with good customer service". If you get a large number of individuals that complain about customer service from one vendor check them to make sure that they don't come from "sock puppets" of one of the other vendors (yes..that is not uncommon)...and then choose the vendor(s) which are either complaint free or have the lowest number of complaints compared to their size. I would also call them during business hours to see if they answer their phone(s). If they don't it may indicate that getting help during installation will be a problem. If they don't answer try leaving a message saying which kit you are interested in and that you have a few questions you need answered to help decide if you will buy their kit or a competitors....and see how long it takes to "get back to you". If they take a long time to return you call BEFORE you buy...it is not a good sign that they will return your calls promptly after they receive your payment for a kit.

Here is where the rules above might come into play..
7) If you decision is now still between several vendors choose the one which has not publicly displayed poor ethics. I believe it display better ethical values to not post at all than to publicly post information that clearly shows a poor grasp of high ethical standards...or an acceptance of low ones.

 
Although low ethical standards of vendors hurt both the VO fuel conversion community as a whole...and its' members individually there is really not much that they can do to force vendors to hold themselves to a higher standard. As with any profession or industry it must establish standards and a means of enforcing those standards on its own members...unless the Govt is willing to do so. And in this case that is not an option anytime in the foreseeable future.

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