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From fries to fuel

Published: Tuesday, June 25, 2013 12:32 p.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, June 25, 2013 12:49 p.m. CDT
(Submitted Photo)
The Renewable Energy Plant in Newton. In April REG released its white paper, which details how biodiesel helps food production and not hinders it.

In April, Renewable Energy Group started a new campaign to clarify some misconceptions about biodiesel. The “Food Then Fuel” campaign is an attempt to separate biodiesel from the lump category of biofuels that includes ethanol, proponal, butanol and biobutanal among others.

REG has said critics of the biofuel industry have capitalized on the confusion and have tried to implicate that biodiesel takes away from the food supply and contributes to higher food prices at supermarkets.

“In reality, biodiesel is playing a vital role in strengthening America’s food security and reducing pressures on food prices,” REG wrote in its white paper. “Rather than competing with food, biodiesel production applies a ‘Food Then Fuel’ approach by adding economic value for food industry by products and sending economic signals to the market to produce more.”

Some of the byproducts biodiesel can be created from include animal fats, distillers corn oil, soybean oil, canola oil, and recycled oils. Basically, biodiesel can be made from a variety of things ranging from old French fry grease to fat from an animal or waste found in septic water.

“We are truly green,” REG Newton plant manager Phil Abels said.

“We create a value stream for producers,” REG general manager Bruce Lutes said.

The white paper elaborates more on the added value stream for producers.

“Biodiesel production helps make the food and agricultural sectors more profitable, incentivizes the production of protein and generally helps keep grocery items, like meat, from increasing in price more than they already would due to inflation and petroleum energy costs.”

REG also stated in its paper that the demand of animal fats, poultry fat and beef tallow in particular, has increased drastically thanks to biodiesel. They said this demand has created an attractive alternate source of revenue for livestock and meat producers.

Producers aren’t the only beneficiaries of biodiesel according to REG. REG said that a lot of companies, including McDonald’s have established used cooking oil programs with biodiesel producers to get rid of old oil.

“Biodiesel is helping restaurants large and small realize more efficient operations while meeting their environmental and corporate responsibility goals,” it wrote in the white paper. “Restaurant chains now regularly receive their food supplies by trucks powered by biodiesel, closing the loop on what has become a virtuous circle of environmental stewardship throughout their supply chain.”

In addition to releasing the white paper, REG took to social media to help spread this new campaign with the hash tag, #BiodieselFoodTHENFuel.

Time will only tell how successful the campaign will be in terms of differentiating biodiesel from other biofuels, but the white paper paints a hopeful picture for the industry.

“Understanding biodiesel ‘Food Then Fuel’ approach in strengthening America’s food security is the first step in ensuring this advanced and diverse biofuel is empowered to build on its success to date.”

Staff writer Ty Rushing may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 426, or at trushing@newtondailynews.com.