Butter From Pennsylvania Farm Show Sculpture to Run Tractors

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pennsylvania, January 9, 2008 (ENS) – After the Pennsylvania Farm Show ends on Saturday, about 900 pounds of butter used in the event’s famous butter sculpture will be scraped off its frame by Penn State farm operations workers, stored in barrels and brought back to the University and State College Area High School for conversion into biodiesel.

Donated by Land O’Lakes Inc., the butter will be converted into fuel by a chemical process currently used by both Penn State and the high school to recycle waste oils from cafeterias and dining halls into biodiesel, which is then used to power tractors and other equipment.

The butter to be recovered from the sculpture will not provide a lot of biofuel, according to Glen Cauffman, manager of Penn State’s farm operations, but it indicates the potential that agricultural and waste products offer for displacing petroleum.

“Doing some rough calculations – the 900 pounds of butter equates to about 810 pounds of biofuel,” Cauffman said. “We can get about a gallon of biofuel from every seven pounds, so that means the butter when converted would provide about 116 gallons of fuel. At today’s petroleum prices, that would be worth about $377.”

“The big tractor we run on 100 percent biofuel here at Penn State uses about five gallons per hour, so the butter from the sculpture represents about 23 hours of use for the tractor.”

The Pennsylvania Farm Show
butter sculpture shows kids
trying to take a cow on a
school bus. (Photo courtesy
Pennsylvania Farm Show)

Recovering the butter from the sculpture, Cauffman said, is a small example of how the United States can reduce its dependence on foreign oil, and it’s is a neat metaphor showing biofuels’ potential.

“In this case, I really like the concept of butter being used for biofuel that will power a tractor to plant corn that will feed dairy cows, so they can produce milk that will be churned into more butter,” he said. “It kind of closes the circle of life in a very green, environmentally friendly way.

“Otherwise, all of this butter that was made into something beautiful is wasted. It is an important lesson to teach the kids, and for society in general, that we can’t be wasting things if we are to greatly reduce our reliance on petroleum,” said Cauffman. “We must recycle waste material to further our total energy picture.”

This year’s butter sculpture, sponsored by Pennsylvania Dairy Promotion Program and Mid-Atlantic Dairy Association, depicts a dairy cow with three students boarding a school bus.

Sculptor Jim Victor of Conshohocken began crafting the design in mid-December and spent approximately 10 days sculpting the tribute to education.

Paul Heasley, agricultural sciences teacher at State College Area High – where biofuels are made through a partnership between the school’s Career and Technical Center, agricultural sciences program and science department – is pleased by the message the butter sculpture recovery effort sends to his students. The high school uses the biofuel to run lawnmowers.

“Our kids have been making biodiesel for a year and a half from recycled cooking oils,” he said. “It’s an educational activity that teaches them the chemistry behind fats and fuels and converting oil into fuels, and it is teaching them about the differences in the combustion of petroleum products versus biofuels. Hopefully, it makes the kids think about the benefits of alternative energy and green energy.”

Cauffman believes it is important to teach young people the importance of green energy. “Both Penn State and the State College Area School District are providing experiential learning to the generation of people who will be faced with solving the petroleum crisis during their lifetimes,” Cauffman said. “These kids will be very much affected by the price, politics and environmental concerns surrounding petroleum.”

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