DOA: Madison Environmental Group and Culver’s Restaurants Will Use a State Energy Grant to Explore Use of Vegetable Oil as a Biofuel

Scott Larrivee, Department of Administration, 608-266-7362
Rebecca Grossberg, Madison Environmental Group, 608-280-0800
Barbara Behling, Culver’s, 608-644-2103

Madison, Wis.-A $15,000 technology feasibility grant from the state energy office will be used by Madison Environmental Group and Culver’s restaurants to assess the commercial applications of used vegetable oil as a biofuel, Administration Secretary Marc Marotta announced today. A first-of-its-kind endeavor for the state, the grant will help the environmental firm and restaurant chain to initiate a pilot program of cars capable of running on used vegetable oil in place of traditional diesel fuel.

Presenting the grant to Madison Environmental Group, Secretary Marotta said the project will provide a real-world testing ground for the biofuel which to date has been used almost exclusively by hobbyists.

“You don’t have to talk to too many business owners around Wisconsin to know that rising fuel costs are an impediment to the growth of their business,” Marotta said. “The solution to this problem requires innovation here at home rather than dependence on natural resources abroad, and this grant is a step in that direction. It is our hope that this project will create interest in all types of alternative fuels, and lead to a larger exploration of the viable alternatives to fossil fuels that we have right here in Wisconsin.”

Culver’s, who uses vegetable oil in their restaurants, was happy to be asked to partner with the Madison Environmental Group for the project that will facilitate the adoption of vegetable oil fuel for interested franchisees to use in their day-to-day driving. Two Culver’s franchisees, Russ Trzebiatowski and Ben Hoffman, currently operate vehicles they’ve converted to run on waste vegetable oil.

“At Culver’s we’re committed to being a good neighbor, and an environmentally conscious company,” said Craig Culver, co-founder of Culver’s restaurants. “This project is an exciting opportunity for our franchise owners to turn a waste product into a fuel source, and be environmentally responsible at the same time.”

Vegetable oil used as a biofuel produces zero net greenhouse gas emissions, zero sulfur emissions, and less particulate matter (“soot”) than diesel or gasoline. It can be turned into fuel after a simple filtering process between the fryer and the fuel tank. Diesel cars and trucks are capable of using vegetable oil after a conversion process involving slight modifications to the diesel engine and the addition of a vegetable oil fuel tank.

“Madison Environmental Group is an innovative company that researches and promotes practical methods to improve the environment,” said Rebecca Grossberg, manager of the group’s Transportation and Research Services. “Our aim is to significantly and systematically increase the use of vegetable oil as a fuel source in Wisconsin. We will develop a user-friendly toolkit of technical and financial information to assist restaurant owners in using vegetable oil to fuel their vehicles. Culver’s restaurant is a natural partner to pilot this effort.”

Approaching the busy Memorial Day travel weekend, a new survey by AAA shows that the Great Lakes region, which includes Wisconsin, can expect a record 4.6 million people to make a trip of 50 miles or more, a 3.5 percent increase over last year. Wisconsin gas prices currently average $2.213 for a gallon of regular gasoline and $2.295 for diesel. Grossberg said that a diesel car with vegetable oil conversion can get over 150 miles per purchased gallon of diesel fuel.

Additional details about the project and its progress will be available from the Madison Environmental Group’s Web site (

About the Department of Administration:
Involved in virtually every aspect of public administration, the Department of Administration is at the forefront of implementing efficient, cost-saving solutions across state government to better serve Wisconsin’s citizens, state agencies, and communities. For more:

About Madison Environmental Group:
Madison Environmental Group is an interdisciplinary consulting firm assisting businesses and individuals with innovative resource and cost saving solutions that contribute to a healthy community and environment. For more:

About Culver’s restaurants:
Culver’s restaurants are independently owned and operated in over 280 locations in 15 states across the nation. The owner/operator concept has been the cornerstone of growth and success for Culver’s since the first location opened in Sauk City, Wis., on July 18, 1984. Culver’s is committed to the communities it serves. Culver’s invests deeply in partnerships and programs, including its VIP college and technical school scholarship program, the annual Day of Warmth and countless other franchise-driven local efforts. For more information on Culver’s locations, promotional programs, menu selections and other areas of interest, visit