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Legislative committee supports biodiesel as clean air tool

Published: Saturday, Aug. 1 2015 2:25 p.m. MDT

Andy Law strains vegetable oil while working on a process at West High School to convert vegetable oil into biodiesel, Thursday, Nov. 10, 2011. Biodiesel fuel generated from used vegetable oil received a nod of approval from a committee of state lawmakers Tuesday. The group endorsed a resolution that recognizes the value of producing biodiesel in Utah to provide a clean fuels alternative. (Ravell Call, Deseret News) Andy Law strains vegetable oil while working on a process at West High School to convert vegetable oil into biodiesel, Thursday, Nov. 10, 2011. Biodiesel fuel generated from used vegetable oil received a nod of approval from a committee of state lawmakers Tuesday. The group endorsed a resolution that recognizes the value of producing biodiesel in Utah to provide a clean fuels alternative. (Ravell Call, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — A company in the northern reaches of Box Elder County is churning out 10 million gallons of biodiesel fuel each year, crafting the product from the used vegetable oil generated by restaurants, schools or jails.

The biodiesel produced by Washakie Renewable Energy in Plymouth is trucked out to markets in California and Texas, but it could very well end up as a retail product in Utah someday.

To that end, HJR5 was unanimously endorsed by the Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Committee on Tuesday, recognizing biodiesel as a clean, renewable resource that should be encouraged in Utah for its role in cleaning up the air and as a locally grown product.

"I have been extremely impressed with what this particular technology can do with our domestic fuel supply, for clean air, in making use of natural products out there," said Rep. Johnny Anderson, R-Taylorsville, the resolution's sponsor. "This is a Utah-based company producing really good, solid-based Utah jobs."

Washakie's Jeff Peterson said the company made a $40 million investment in its Plymouth location and is bringing on a seed crusher to extract oil from soybeans or other plants that also leaves a protein residual that can be used in feed stock.

Biodiesel produced this way is "second generation" biofuel, not comparable to ethanol, Peterson added, because the company does not use corn and it results in those usable byproducts.

Washakie pays 40 cents per gallon for used vegetable oil it collects from restaurants along the Wasatch Front and would also like to tap into supplies from jails and other big producers.

"We take that waste product and turn it into a renewable product," Peterson said, adding that company's biodiesel fuel ultimately costs less per gallon than traditional petroleum-based diesel.

While there are many small-scale garage producers of biodiesel, Washakie and Washington County's Pleasant Valley are Utah's commercial generators of biodiesel.

Anderson said he would like to encourage growth in the reliance on biodiesel as an eco-friendly, clean air alternative.

"I've been blown away with what this company has been able to do," he said.

Email: amyjoi@deseretnews.com Twitter: amyjoi16

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