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August 24, 2007   Email to Friend 

Darryal Ray
(334) 613-4187
August 24, 2007

Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks shows Montgomery Mayor Bobby Bright various samples of biodiesel made from cooking oils. The two have teamed on a pilot project which will fuel 475 city vehicles with biodiesel.
MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- The Department of Agriculture & Industries and City of Montgomery announced today the planned Oct. 1 launch of a pilot project to turn used cooking oil into biodiesel fuel for 475 city vehicles, a project that Mayor Bobby Bright says will shave $100,000 off the city budget.

What's more, Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks described the project as "only the beginning," and hopes it will catch on and spread to other cities and counties across the state.

"Now, if you are sitting downtown, and you start smelling French fries cooking, look very close because you're probably going to have a city vehicle that is burning this," Sparks said at a Friday morning press conference at the Department of Agriculture & Industries.

"The project we're talking about today is a partnership where we will make 100 percent biodiesel from cooking oil and then allow the city to blend it with their diesel fuel and then be able to burn it in their city vehicles," said Sparks, who said the ag department is in the process of purchasing the equipment from Biodiesel Logic, a Guntersville-based operation founded in 2005.

The processing equipment, said Sparks, will cost between $15,000 and $20,000 and produce about 100 gallons of biodiesel per day.

Bright, while not putting a figure on the city's cost, said that all the resources it needs are already in place. "We have the equipment we need; we have the manpower," he said.

Bright said he estimates the partnership will reduce the city's diesel dependency "by at least 20 percent" on 100 percent petroleum-based oil. "At this point, the City of Montgomery uses about 700,000 gallons of diesel fuel each year. This will reduce this demand by 20 percent," said Bright. "We guess, and estimate, it will save our budget each year in the cost of fuel, approximately $100,000 a year."

The mayor also said that figure, based on the city's current cost of $2.14 per gallon of diesel, "could be significantly more" as diesel prices rise. Currently, he said, the city could use the biodiesel in 475 vehicles.

Sparks said the "feedstock" for the oil will initially come from eight Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants in the Montgomery area, but plans also call for the Department of Agriculture to purchase containers to distribute to state employees as part of a volunteer recycling program for their own cooking oil from home.

Another part of the plan is to establish collection points around the city where homeowners can bring used cooking oil, where it will be picked up by city trucks and taken to the Department of Agriculture's processing facility. Once processed, the 100 percent biodiesel will then be picked up by city crews who will then blend it with 80 percent diesel fuel, creating a 500 gallons of a product called B20.

"I've said it a million times, folks," reiterated Sparks. "Every gallon of oil that we can produce in Alabama is one less gallon that we bring out of that desert. That's as simple as we can be. This is a very small beginning of where we want to make it bigger and better."

Furthermore, Bright said, recycling the oil will keep it out of the landfills, and out of the city's sewer system. "This oil going down through that system is not helpful at all," he said. "It creates problems and costs and repairs and maintenance. If we can get people to participate in this -- we know it will be difficult to get 100 percent participation -- but if we can just reduce it by 15 to 20 percent, it will help reduce the maintenance cost of our systems."

Saying projects such as this are a must if the U.S. is to reduce its dependence on foreign oil, Sparks also announced that the Department of Agriculture is working with Alabama A&M University in Huntsville to evaluate the use of canola oil.

"Canola is a winter crop. It's an additional revenue for farmers in the state of Alabama," said Sparks. "So if we could add a canola crop to create biodiesel in the State of Alabama, it's not only a win-win for the state of Alabama, it's a win-win for our farmers. It's for when your land is lying there, not being in production. Maybe now we can put that land into production at a period of time that they would have some additional revenues.

"We've got to do everything we can to keep the farmer on the farm," Sparks added. "And I can tell you, the Department of Agriculuture is committed to doing everything we can to make this country less dependent on foreign oil. Partnerships like we've made today, just takes it a small step. This is only the beginning."

Sparks said that today Alabama uses 2.5 billion gallons of gasoline per year. "If we went to a 10 percent blend, that would be 250 million gallons," he said. "Two-hundred-fifty million gallons mean you would have to have five 50-million gallon alternative fuel plants. That's the direction we're headed in, folks. You've got to start putting those equations together. We're talking about how we create jobs for rural Alabama. How do we help farmers? How do we talk about environment? How do we do all these things? These are the type numbers we've started looking at, and hopefully, we can get there."

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