Franz and Me: A love story

Submitted by Travis Mecum, Serving at GTECH Strategies in Pittsburgh, PA

This is Franz.

Franz is a Ford F-250 diesel pickup truck that has been converted to run on Straight Vegetable Oil (SVO). I could purchase canola oil from a grocery store and pour it straight into the tank, but I don’t. Instead, I use SVO that is recycled from used cooking oil. Franz smells faintly of French fries.

To be clear though, Franz has two fuel tanks; a traditional diesel fuel tank that I fill with biodiesel and a second fuel tank that holds SVO. SVO is thicker than diesel, or biodiesel, and must be heated up before use. Franz starts on diesel and when the SVO gets hot enough, a fuel valve switches from the diesel fuel line to the SVO fuel line. How do I know these things? I learned them from my work as Energy Corps Fellow for GTECH Strategies in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania.

[Here I am collecting oil from Phipps Conservatory. Source: Pittsburgh Post Gazette]

My job as an Energy Corps Fellow has been to handle the operations of a waste cooking oil collection service called ReFuel Pittsburgh. I schedule collections, I make phone calls, I pour oil, and I love this line of work.

Here’s why

Occasionally, on my oil collections route, people will ask me about Franz. What kind of mileage does Franz get on SVO? (20mpg) Does Franz emit less CO2 than a regular diesel truck? (80 to 85 percent less CO2 when running on SVO) Do have time to talk about biofuels? (ALWAYS)

Franz is the best kind of conversation starter for alternative energy.

ReFuel Pgh is a waste oil recycling social venture that aims to reduce air and water pollution while keeping fuel investments in the Pittsburgh region. In partnership with Braddock-based Fossil Free Fuel, used cooking oil is recycled into a cleaner burning alternative fuel. Since 2010, we have recycled more than 10,000 gallons of waste cooking oil. For more information follow these links:

www.refuelpgh.org

www.gtechstrategies.org

www.fossilfreefuel.com

www.optimustec.com

Travis Mecum is pursuing a career in environmental and education policy as a pathway to poverty reduction. He is working for ReFuel PGH to expand the collection of waste cooking oil from local Pittsburgh sources (restaurants, festivals, churches, schools etc.) to be reused as alternative fuel. He has a master’s degree in public policy from Carnegie Mellon University. Before joining Energy Corps, Travis collected a wealth of work skills from teaching English in the Peace Corps, interning as a consultant on project management for the Ministry of Planning in Liberia, working as a freelance videographer and for one summer selling vacuum cleaners door to door.

 

 

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