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Recycled Vegetable Oil

NOLS on the Road Declares Energy Independence: Recycled Vegetable Oil (RVO)

Vegetable Oil Fuels the Bus

NOLS "grease monkeys" Jared Scott and Matt Armstrong show off the custom built heated fuel tank before installing on the bus.

The NOLS Bus is powered by a diesel engine, specially converted to run on vegetable oil gathered and filtered from restaurants and dining halls during the NOLS on the Road tour. Vegetable oil offers similar gas mileage as petroleum diesel, but with fewer polluting emissions. Veggie oil also leaves behind a more pleasant alternative to the black cloud of diesel engine smoke—instead of that gagging diesel smell, the bus leaves in its wake the unmistakable smell of Chinese food, popcorn or french fries!

Joel Woolf, owner of Veg Powered Systems, is the man behind the NOLS Bus' RVO system. In January, 2005 Joel and NOLS grease monkeys Jared Scott and Matt Armstrong completed the conversion that makes the NOLS Bus go.

When it comes time to fill up at the pump, the savings of using veggie oil really add up. Why? Because veggie oil is free! In fact, most restaurants and dining halls are happy to get rid of their unwanted, leftover oil in order to avoid having to pay to have it removed.

Oil Consumption
Each year, all family vehicles in the U.S. consume enough fuel to cover a regulation-size football field to the depth of about 40 miles. As a nation we are consuming approximately 20 million barrels of oil a day, making our country the number one consumer of non-renewable fossil fuels in the world. As the demand for oil rises, the remote, wild places that serve as NOLS’ wilderness classrooms are increasingly threatened by oil and gas development— places like Wyoming’s Red Desert, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, and many more. To help curb our reliance on oil, reduce our polluting emissions, and keep our classrooms wild, cleaner, alternative fuel sources such as vegetable oil are providing a better solution.

The Vegetable Oil Alternative
Vegetable oil as a fuel source may sound like a crazy idea, but the very first diesel engine was actually built to run on peanut oil, way back in 1900. In recent years, there has been a move in two directions for the use of vegetable oil fuel in diesel engines: Biodiesel and recycled vegetable oil. Biodiesel is the name designated for a chemically altered vegetable oil that can run in existing, non-converted diesel engines. Used vegetable oil, usually acquired from restaurants needing to dispose of their used oil, can be filtered and poured directly into a converted diesel engine.

Benefits of Vegetable Oil Fuel
When used in place of petroleum diesel, Biodiesel and recycled vegetable oil offer a wide range of environmental, health, economic and fuel security benefits. Vegetable oil burned as fuel does not emit sulfur dioxide (SO2), a main compound in diesel responsible for acid rain. In addition to this 100% reduction in SO2, recycled vegetable oil fuel produces 78% less carbon dioxide (CO2), the dominant greenhouse gas responsible for global warming, 48% less carbon monoxide, a poisonous gas, 48% less asthma-causing particulate matter, and 80% less cancer-causing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH’s) than petroleum diesel.

Besides the substantial reductions in polluting emissions, vegetable oil fuel can also give the U.S. greater fuel security, curbing our reliance on imported oil. Currently the U.S. imports about 60% of our fuel needs from other countries, leaving us susceptible to dramatic price shocks and high defense costs to secure the imported oil.

Vegetable oil is produced domestically in the U.S., grown by American farmers. A 2001 U.S. Department of Agriculture study found that if Americans increased their demand for vegetable oil by 200 million gallons, the average net farm income would increase by $300 million per year.

NOLS Bus employee Riley Hopeman and Marketing Manager Matthew Copeland collect RVO to fuel the bus.
Photo: Curtis Tronolone
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