Knowing Where the WVO Goes Matters

Why CU Biodiesel is fighting to redirect on-campus waste oil
By Luke Geiver | July 15, 2011

The University of Colorado at Boulder is outsourcing the used cooking oil produced on campus, and CU Biodiesel, a student led organization, is trying to stop it. “The university keeps on expanding and building cafeterias,” says Jan Laesecke, operations director for CU Biodiesel. “Right now,” Laesecke says, “we are trying to convince the university to give its WVO to a service that uses it for biodiesel production” rather than giving it to a service that sells the WVO on the commodities market. To do so, Laesecke and the other members of the student biodiesel group have gathered signatures, filed the appropriate paperwork with the school and even passed out information on the uses of biodiesel and the possible places the fuel could be used on campus.

“Our ideal goal would be that eventually the university would have its own facility for biodiesel production on campus for transporting students around campus.” And that shouldn’t present too much of a challenge, considering that the “Buff (Buffalos) Buses” on campus currently run on B20.

Unfortunately, while the chance that CU Biodiesel may someday be able to produce large amounts of biodiesel on campus for on-campus use may seem slim, the same might be said for Laesecke’s efforts to direct the school’s WVO away from the commodity markets and into a reactor. “Facing such a huge public university, and such a huge bureaucracy, there are certainly a whole lot of factors that the students don’t even see,” he explains, citing the student group’s chances at roughly 50 percent.

But, if the students are successful in resourcing the WVO, their efforts will not end by simply knowing where their WVO is going. CU Biodiesel is currently working with the Sustainable Oil Service, one of the oil collection companies on campus, and a supplier and producer of biodiesel sourced from, you guessed it, WVO. The Sustainable Oil Service currently supplies the Boulder County fleet with biodiesel and if the efforts by CU Biodiesel pay off, SOS could become busier.

Until then, CU Biodiesel will continue to work to promote and educate others on the positives and ultimate needs for using biodiesel. The students have converted a mobile hot dog stand into a biodiesel production vehicle that they use as a demonstration device during educational workshops. Every year, the students in the group travel to the National Biodiesel Conference & Expo and learn more about the new trends in the industry. During their own workshops, Laesecke says he has recognized a trend amongst the attendees. “Everyone seems to have their own opinion on what the next generation’s solution is. I think that it is important we stress that our solution shouldn’t be one miracle technology that we are all hoping and praying for,” he says, “rather than a more ideological stance on our decrease on energy.”

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