Something special is happening in Milwaukee. A new company called Cream City Grecycling is hard at work collecting used cooking oil from restaurants, schools, and cafeterias across the city, paying them for what was once waste they had to pay to get rid of. After collecting the waste, they process it in local refineries to turn it into clean, renewable biodiesel that can power cars and trucks.
That’s pretty cool, and beyond being good for the environment, it helps create jobs, keep money flowing in the local economy, and reduces our dependence on fossil fuels.
You see, Wisconsin has a very costly addiction to dirty fossil fuels. Every year, we spend billions of dollars purchasing coal, oil, and natural gas from out-of-state. In 2009, we spent over $12 billion for these fuels. If you include electricity that we buy from other states that is generated from fossil fuels, that number jumps to over $18 billion.
That’s a lot of money, and, once it leaves our economy it never comes back. In return for the billions and billions of dollars we spend, we’re left with polluted air and water, contaminated by the pollution that burning fossil fuels leaves behind.
Luckily, we already have the technology we need to substantially reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.
Companies like Cream City Grecycling use resources that Wisconsin already has to produce the energy we need to power our economy. In doing so, they create jobs and invest in Wisconsin instead of sending money out of state.
While collecting used cooking oil to make biodiesel won’t solve our problem alone, there are many other ways that we can reduce our dependence on fossil fuels today.
Wind, solar and bioenergy can all help reduce our dependence on expensive, dirty coal to produce electricity. These technologies are effective, time-tested methods of producing energy and they can be manufactured and produce energy right here in Wisconsin. All we need to make these energy solutions a reality is to pass policies that encourage their growth.
We also have the opportunity to use other waste streams to meet our energy needs. Here in the dairy state, we can use manure from our 1,266,000 cows to produce electricity using manure digesters. Many manure digesters have the added environmental benefit of removing large amounts of phosphorus — the nutrient responsible for harmful algae blooms in Wisconsin lakes — from water.
There is no silver bullet solution, but by investing in an array of time-tested clean energy solutions, we can substantially reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. Companies like Cream City Grecycling are blazing the path forward. Following their lead will help clean our air and water, create jobs, and strengthen our economy.
-Contributed by Sam Weis, communications director.