From hot fryers to speedy tires

By By Andrew Thompson

By Andrew Thompson

A bus using oil not from the soil visited campus on Feb. 1.

The National Outdoor Leadership School came to the U to promote their programs from a bus powered primarily by recycled vegetable oil.

The bus has three fuel tanks: a 100-gallon tank for diesel fuel, a 90-gallon tank for vegetable oil and another tank to heat and filter the vegetable oil.

“In the morning we start the engine on diesel, and once the engine heats up, we heat up the vegetable oil,” said Teal Maxwell, a NOLS member from Massachusetts. “Then about 10 minutes into our drive in the morning, we’re able to flip over to the veggie oil and use that for the rest of the day.”

The bus gets five to eight miles per gallon when running on vegetable oil-the same figure it would get on diesel with no reported reduction in horsepower.

Refueling the bus with vegetable oil presents quite a different experience than a trip to Texaco or Maverick.

“We have to find (vegetable oil) by looking in grease traps,” Maxwell said. “We sneak around back alleys, and if we find stuff we can use, we approach the restaurant manager. A lot of the time they think we’re crazy or trying to dupe them.”

The cleanest vegetable oil is usually found from Asian and Mexican restaurants, Maxwell said, because of the kind of oil they use and the food they fry.

Once NOLS obtains the fuel, they must pour the oil through the filtration system equipped on the side of the bus. This process generally takes two hours.

This acquisition adventure is not the only reason vegetable oil isn’t seen as a viable fuel alternative.

“It would be too hard to find clean vegetable oil if everyone started using it,” said Alex Schirer, a recent U alumnus who has been on the NOLS bus for nine months. “Biodiesel is much cleaner and there are biodiesel producers throughout the country.”

Schirer and Maxwell are on the “NOLS on the Road Finding Tomorrow’s Leaders Bus Tour,” which kicked off from Salt Lake City during the Outdoor Retailer Convention of August 2004. It has traveled to 42 states and covered more than 30,000 miles.

“It was really cool. A lot of places don’t practice what they preach but NOLS does,” said Catherine Reay, senior in parks, recreation and tourism and NOLS alumna.

Reay said she had heard about the bus, but this was her first time seeing it.

NOLS is a private, non-profit educational organization that provides leadership and environmental training in 13 locations across the world, from Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic to Patagonia. The school is headquartered in Lander, Wyo.

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