Smyrna Biodiesel – Cost v. Benefit -Too many questions

11-6-2014: Over 300 gallons of cooking oil was collected in 2013 to help power Smyrna vehicles.

Just diverting from real estate in this post, but I get a cold chill each time I see another example how local Governments use your tax money.

Ask yourself one question:
What do local Governments do better than private industry?

Answer: Spend more money than necessary!

Some examples come to mind:
City of Marietta’s Fibernet…
City of Marietta’s Marietta Conference Center…
Cobb County’s unsuccessful operation of a compost plant…
Cobb County’s future $400 million expenditure on a stadium…
Cobb County’s expansion of McCullum Airport to become an International Airport and the extra air traffic…
Extra toll lanes off Interstate I-75 and I-575…
Eventual future expansion and development of mass transit including bus and rail…

A December 9, 2012 article in the Marietta Daily Journal about the City of Smyrna starting a cooking oil recycling program to convert cooking oil into biodiesel fuel and I started asking myself questions.

Now, I’m all for Government recycling if it makes economic sense but why not leave it to something the private sector can do more efficiently.

First, the City of Smyrna received a Federal Grant of $208,000 under the $3.2 Billion Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program.

– Helped start the program, so it must be included in the payback calculation – right?
– Does anyone think Government spending on this is necessary?
– Does anyone think that biodiesel will survive without Government support?
– Does anyone think receiving a US Federal Grant comes with “no” strings attached?

Second, has anyone reported the cost of establishing and maintaining cooking oil collection stations and cost of logistics retrieving the oil from collection stations?

Third, “once the system is at capacity”, Smyrna estimates an annual savings of $32,000.

– Says who and what data were used in these calculations?
– Do you think the logistics of residents transporting used oil to one of the drop off stations will be convenient or competitive with other restaurants that collect the cooking oil for other customers/vendors?

Fourth, Since the addition of ethanol to auto gasoline has caused significant operational issue with small engines, biodiesel fuel may also cause engine wear issues. Has anyone explored those long term maintenance or reduced useful life of engine or components? How about replacement of the F-450s and F550s sooner than expected since this fuel might burn at a different rate and cause more engine wear? Factors in the future change, what guarantee do we have in the future that the trucks used by water, sewer, and trash departments will still be used or will it be bid out to private industry? Future equipment and programs are very fluid and don’t assume it ill remain the same mix.

Fifth, the reason that some local Governments are looking into biodiesel fuel doesn’t mean its right for them or something they need to “invest” in. The City of Marietta has been purchasing biodiesel fuel from a local vendor, so why not leave it up to the private marketplace to supply it more efficiently than Government?

Sixth, the City of Smyrna estimates that once the facility is at maximum production, the city will reduce diesel fuel consumption by 27% at a $32,000 annual savings.

– Will diesel fuel prices increase, remain same, or decrease?
– What does maximum production mean?

Seventh, if Smyrna is the only local Government doing this, why? Do you think other Governments have studied this or eliminated the cost v. benefit? If the $208,000 taxpayer “donation” was required to start the program, is that a good use of taxpayer “donations”?

My spider sense says – NO!

Source: MDJ Smyrna Biodiesel Article

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