SGA buys ‘Freedom Fueler’ to convert Pfeiffer grease to biodiesel

by Ben RobisonStaff Writer

The Simpson Student Government Association’s newest investment, the Freedom Fueler, will soon be on campus to lessen the burden of Simpson’s diesel-fueled vehicles.

The Freedom Fueler, ordered just before Thanksgiving break, is a machine that will convert waste vegetable oils to biodiesel for use in campus vehicles.

Student Body President Kyle Liske first introduced the idea of the biodiesel converter to the SGA.

“I was interested in biodiesel production in my Environmental Issues class,” Liske said. “My brother’s wife works at Luther [College] where they have this implemented, and I thought it would be worth looking into here at Simpson.”

With the help of Ryan Rehmeier, assistant professor of biology, Liske began to experiment turning clean vegetable oils into biodiesel and gradually moved on to the campus dining services’ byproducts.

Through a fairly complicated chemistry process, the oil produced from Pfieffer and the Storm Street Grill-about 50 gallons a week-will be mixed with diesel fuel to be used in about five engines on campus, including the new 35-passenger “people mover” bus.

“We can probably produce more than we will use,” Rehmeier said. “This should greatly offset Simpson’s use of diesel, and it may dictate what we purchase for vehicles in the future.”

Modeled after the biodiesel conversions at Luther College and his own experimentation, Liske’s proposal was a hit with the right people.

“The administration was easy to convince,” Liske said. “Use of biodiesel on campus goes hand-in-hand with the Presidents’ Commitment that President Byrd signed this past summer.”

The Presidents’ Commitment, or the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment states, “We believe colleges and universities must exercise leadership in their communities and throughout society by modeling ways to minimize global warming emission, and by providing the knowledge and the educated graduates to achieve climate neutrality.”

According to Rehmeier, the biodiesel project will have an impact on Simpson’s sustainability commitment by meeting the needs of present students without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.

“It won’t eliminate the problem, but it’s a step in the right direction,” Rehmeier said.

Blair Stairs, general manager of campus dining services, is also on board with the project.

“This is a perfect way to recycle on campus,” Stairs said. “This fits in nicely with the sustainability initiative, and we are happy that dining services can do our part.”

Liske and Rehmeier are confident that this will benefit students as much as the various campus services.

“This is a SGA-funded project, so the students will benefit,” Liske said. “I’m glad to see SGA investing in more large-scale, capital projects.”

Rehmeier hopes and plans to incorporate the Freedom Fueler into the environmental science curriculum.

“The project is student-run, and can be student-used,” Rehmeier said. “We’ll have demonstrations for the students and hopefully for the community. We want this to be an educational experience.”

Liske also said that the biodiesel project was passed by the SGA on the condition that any profit made from the biodiesel processor after payback time will go to fund future sustainability projects.

The Freedom Fueler was ordered Nov. 24, and should be installed on campus over winter break. Liske hopes Simpson can start producing the biodiesel early next semester.