Today I made the Front Page of the Salt Lake Tribune, one of Utah’s oldest & largest papers.
“Bio fuel home brewers battle big refiners in Utah’s grease war”
-Catchy title, eh?
Click here to see the article
A few day’s back a writer from the Salt Lake Tribune, Patty Henetz, got a hold of me & wanted my opinion on Biodiesel in Utah as well as information on an issue we’re having with our local grease renderer’s.
In Salt Lake County, making biodiesel, at least on a homebrew level, has come to a screaching halt due to a law on the books that makes it against the law to collect waste veggie oil unless you have a “Liquid Waste Handling Permit”.
To get one runs you $125.00/year, an inspection from the health dept, and proof of a general liability insurance policy with $1 Mil in the environmental liability section.
Sounds easy, right? Yeah right. It ain’t!
There’s a local company called Renegade Oil, which is a waste oil renderer (they go pick it up), has this nasty habit of calling the health department anytime they see a “foriegn” barrel behind a restaraunt & turning the “oil collecter” in.
The health dept works off of complaints, so they have to follow up. If they find you don’t have a permit, you get told to get one or quit collecting the oil.
One of my clients was the first one in the County to “go legal” and, as of this writing, is the only one that’s done so. The rest of the homebrewers in Salt Lake County have either gone underground or quit making biodiesel.
And now for my opinion
As if I wasn’t going to give it.
Here’s my take on this issue.
#1- Renegade oil has one heck of a monopoly on oil in Salt Lake County
#2- They view us as competition
#3- They’re like any business trying to kill competition…they’re going for whatever they can, which means turning biodieser’s into the Health Department
#4- They’re not making any friends of it among biodieseler’s
#5- If they disappeared, I wouldn’t cry.
A little history…
When biodiesel homebrewing first started out in Utah, no one knew what the heck it was. I was one of the first ones in Utah to get started making biodiesel and was also one of the ones that helped get some publicity going on it.
I worked with other biodieseler’s to form the Utah Biodiesel Cooperative, helped host several Biodiesel related events, and even participate at a local level in Utah Clean Cities.
Well, as it became popular, so did demand for waste veggie oil. When we first got into this several people began approaching Renegade Oil, Salt Lake County’s largest oil renderer. They were receptive at first, in fact, for a while they were even part of some of our big meetings we held with Utah Clean Cities and were looking at even possibly getting into the Biodiesel act by producing it as a partner with other businesses.
That was nice & all but then they turned downright nasty. Instead of being nice & friendly they began turning every would-be biodieseler into the health department at an astonishing rate.
Whenever biodieseler’s would run into Renegade drivers, they were treated rudely. In some instances, we’ve even had biodieseler’s have their barrels removed from a restaraunt by renderer’s other than Renegade. When they were confronted, the renderer denied the acusations.
So we’ve got the big oil renderer’s getting practically ALL of the waste oil in the valley FOR FREE I MIGHT ADD–in fact, in some cases THEY’RE MAKING THE RESTARAUNT PAY FOR THE SERVICE!!!
These renderer’s then take the waste grease, filter it a bit (although I’ve seen a barrel of waste grease from a local renderer after it’s supposedly been filtered. Looked pretty nasty to me), and then sell it on the commodities market.
Think of the business model here…these guy’s HAVE GOT IT GOOD!!!!
1- They get their product for free from restaraunts
2- In some cases the restaraunts PAY THEM to come & pick it up
3- They filter it a bit and then resell the stuff for anywhere from $1.29 to $1.40/gallon on the open commodities market.
Let’s do the math….
Renegade’s the biggest collector in Utah County. Sources indicate that they collect over 1.5 million gallons of oil per year.
1,500,000 * $1.29 = $1,935,000. Not bad, eh? And that’s on the low end.
1,500,000 * $1.40 = $2,100,000. Even better.
Now, granted they’ve got over head, they’ve gotta pay drivers to go pick it up & all & then filter it, which isn’t cheap, but still, that’s not too bad of a business to be in I guess.
So, enter Joe Biodieseler
All us biodieseler’s begin to start cutting into their oil supply & now they get grumpy. Sucks to be them, eh? Well, not really, not when you have the Big Bad Health Department on your side to go shut down any little biodieseler you find for you.
I dunno about you, but I kind of think that’s a bit unfair.
Sure, I can see the point of obeying the ordinances & all. I can see the point of them wanting to have Biodieseler’s “play by the same rules”, but c’mon, who turns their neighbor into the law every time they get the chance? I call that a pretty low blow.
You know, we’ve even met with the renderer’s to talk about how we can be together peacably. Nope. They didn’t seem interested. We even asked if we could PURCHASE the oil from them. Nope. Weren’t interested. Some stupid lame excuse about them being worried about liability issues if the oil wasn’t good. c’mon. Can’t they get any more creative than that?
I’m sorry, but if the oil I buy from them doesn’t make good biodiesel it’s my own damn fault.
It’s interesting, we’ve tried to be nice, we’ve tried to meet with them & be polite & even work together, but they’re just not interested.
Guess it’s time to start playing a little more hardball, eh?
Well, anyway, more on that later. I just find it interesting how arrogant they are and how they have no desire to want to be a part of such a great thing.
There’s other cities where the renderer’s have jumped on the biodiesel band wagon and have cooperated fully with biodieselers, in some cases they’ve even collected the good oil and saved it for biodieseler’s thereby selling it at a premium.
You know, what get’s to me is the fact that they don’t even want to try to cooperate.
They’re so dead set against us that it’s pathetic.
Now, I do have to say that there have been several renderer’s in Utah that have been great to deal with. It’s just Renegade that’s been such a pain in the ass.
Anyway, yep. I’m a bit opinionated on this issue.
More on that later though.
The Rabid Biodiesel Nut