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Case Study in Action, Partnerships That Turn Petroleum into a Renewable Resource

There are countless definitions of leadership, but perhaps among most resonant remains the explanation offered by Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Albert Schweitzer. “Leadership,” he mused, “is example.”

As environmental leaders, we spend much of our time analyzing and discussing the obstacles we must surmount to realize our vision of a sustainable world. We collect infinite amounts of operational data from our businesses and organizations; we pour time into drafting and disseminating well-researched reports that review the minute details of that data; we share with one another tried and true green practices. Yet, rarely in the environmental realm do we hear of companies taking bold and decisive action– forgoing old ways of doing things when a more environmentally sound alternative presents itself — without the laborious prerequisites of consensus building and scrutinizing projected implications. And while I’m all for thoughtful deliberation, I do wonder if we who are concerned with energy and climate matters dedicate a disproportionate amount of time to analyzing rather than acting. As a result, are we unintentionally becoming the culprits stalling the very progress we seek to make?

And so today, I’d like to highlight two companies which have, in my industry, gone above and beyond by greening an impossibly dirty product: petroleum.

By means of background, tens of millions of barrels of motor oil cycle through vehicle engines around the world each year—US drivers alone produce about 1.3 billion gallons of dirty used lubricant every year. Too much of it—the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates 200 million gallons (757,082 liters)—is dumped illegally on an annual basis. A percentage is repurposed, but with dubious environmental benefit, typically being burned as an environmentally regretful industrial fuel source.

Within recent years, another option has emerged: oil as a renewable resource. For example, Universal Lubricants of Wichita, KS utilizes a tightly controlled, closed-loop process to collect used motor oil from across the country, process it through the company’s technologically advanced refinery—a method which uses 89% less energy than refining oil from virgin crude– and then blend the re-refined oil into high quality ECO ULTRA® motor oils and lubricants. A repeatable cycle which keeps petroleum in play indefinitely, Universal Lubricants has effectively engineered one of the most sustainable environmental practices in existence.

But that means little to those companies who implement practices and trends tested only by others. To rev a green motor oil revolution, there must be companies unafraid to throttle their sustainability practices into high gear, to become the trailblazers who make the change they wish to see in the world. For Universal, there are two worth mentioning here:

1. Enterprise Holdings: In an alliance that promises to conserve finite natural resources and safeguard the environment, Universal Lubricants and Enterprise Holdings, which operates the Alamo Rent A Car, Enterprise Rent-A-Car and National Car Rental brands through its regional subsidiaries, have come together to close the car care loop. Whereas business ventures are too often seen as diametrically opposed to environmental interests, Universal Lubricants and Enterprise contest that very assumption, providing a shining example of the innovation and possibility that arises when a commitment to customer service fuses with formidable environmental stewardship. By teaming up with Universal Lubricants, Enterprise ensures that its vehicles take customers where they need to go, but also assures its customers that their operations protect the ecological systems they pass through along the way.

2. D&D Sexton, Inc.:  The Company’s 170 truck fleet was one of the first to enter the growing community of ECO ULTRA® oil users, furthering the green motor oil revolution’s efforts to make petroleum a renewable commodity. The average 12 gallon diesel engine change using ECO ULTRA® saves America from importing 24 barrels of foreign oil; for D&D Sexton’s fleet, that translate to 4,080 barrels of oil, at any given drain interval. Imagine the national impact if every trucking company did the same.

And what’s more,  re-refined oil’s economic advantages also directly benefit those which make the switch. With field proven performance demonstrating a number of benefits over competitors’ products, ECO ULTRA®  offers one of the highest TBNs for long-term protection, reduced engine wear, and extended drain intervals. Together, these advantages result in less oil consumption overall and enhanced fuel economy, keeping D&D Sexton trucks on the road for longer periods of time, with fewer maintenance interruptions.

Simply by making the easy, but powerful choice to use re-refined engine oil, each of these two very different companies have chosen to seize opportunity, to  reject vacillation, to set the example for others to imitate. Whatever our industry, whatever our business, we as decision makers have much to learn from these pioneers. Leadership comes in many forms, but we should follow the example of Enterprise and D&D Sexton, and strike out to lead by example, ourselves.

John Wesley is CEO of Universal Lubricants.

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One thought on “Case Study in Action, Partnerships That Turn Petroleum into a Renewable Resource

  1. John, thank you for starting your piece with Albert Schweitzer’s words on leadership by example. Here at The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship (ASF), our programming improves the health and well-being of vulnerable communities by developing “Leaders in Service” who are skilled in addressing the social determinants of health (poverty, the environment, education) as well as acute health issues. I have shared your piece on our Facebook page, facebook.com/albertschweitzerfellowship.

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