All aboard the chip fat bus

That’s a headline in yesterday’s Sunday Times. The article is online but you need to have subscribed to the Sunday Times website to read it, or have a bought a copy of the Sunday Times.

Basically, it’s an update on a Stagecoach Press Release from 2007 which announced the launch of the “UK’s first Bio-buses as part of a ground-breaking environmental initiative that will allow customers to exchange used cooking oil for discounted bus travel.” What the Press Release didn’t mention was that Argent Energy “which operates the UK’s first large-scale biodiesel plant, will provide bulk fuel storage at Stagecoach’s Kilmarnock depot for the duration of the six-month trial and will supply all the biodiesel” is 40% owned by Brian Souter and his sister.

“In an attempt to raise awareness, Stagecoach supplied all households on the route with a free half-litre container to recycle their cooking oil. The company has also been out to see all the local schools to give educational talks about environmental issues.”

“The charm offensive is aimed at encouraging local people to take their used chip fat to East Ayrshire council’s recycling plant and trade it in for a voucher that entitles them to a 20p discount on their next bus journey.”

What is a surprise in the article are the quotes from Sam Greer, Stagecoach’s regional director for Scotland. “Despite the higher operating costs, Greer said this is more than offset by an increase in passenger numbers. In the first year after introducing the bio bus on the Kilmarnock route, passenger numbers rose 32.7%, he said. “Stagecoach also noted that a recent straw poll of its passengers showed that 8% said they used the service because it was running on biofuel.”

PS It makes me smile to read all these stories about vegetable oil being used as diesel fuel as if it were a new idea. When Otto Diesel invented the diesel engine it was powered by peanut oil – fossil fuel came later.