Wednesday, November 21, 2007

What To Do With Those Leftovers

Mr. Beale and I are still traveling, so I wanted to wish everyone a very happy Thanksgiving and offer up this novel thought:
San Francisco to Fuel Cars with Grease
Waste Oils Will Power the City's Vehicle Fleet

San Francisco is pioneering another environmental initiative, with the launch today of SFGreasecycle.

The free program will transform used cooking oil into biodiesel that will power part of the city vehicle fleet. It is believed to be the largest such program in the nation, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Not only does it provide a useful alternative to ditching old grease (which if illegally dumped can clog sewers) but it offsets the need for petroleum diesel, which is more highly polluting and has to be imported at high cost.

The genius of the program is embedded in its name: cycle. By using waste, rather than disposing of it, it treats consumption as a part of a cycle of usefulness, rather than a straight line from natural resource toward disposal.

I’m not the most technical person in the world so when I learned a few years ago that diesel engines can easily be retrofitted to run on used cooking grease, I was amazed. I actually spoke to someone who transitioned his pickup truck to run on oil he gets free from a local KFC. All that was required, he said, was a $200 part. Then he called around and found a local KFC willing to give him their used grease, which they were more than happy to do since they usually pay a waste management company to haul it away. Now he gets free fuel and his car smells like fried chicken.

This idea has intrigued me, and I love that San Francisco is transitioning their fleet to run on restaurant grease. Imagine if Metro’s city buses smelled like french fries and cheeseburgers instead of diesel smoke--I wonder if obesity rates in the city would climb accordingly?

We in the South have never seen a Fry Daddy we didn’t like. Fried food is a staple around these parts, and it’s hard to find a downtown street corner that doesn’t have a fast food restaurant. Has anyone ever wondered what happens to all that leftover fry grease?

Maybe it’s time to start reusing our cooking grease instead of dumping it. Anyone?

For more information on SF GreaseCycle, check out their website.