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Used Cafeteria Oil Could Power Alabama School Buses

posted on May 29, 2009

From Mystery Meat to Biodiesel Fleet: Used Oil from Cafeterias Might Power Alabama School Buses

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) -- Alabama's school children might one day ride to-and-from campus in buses that are powered with cooking oil leftover from making their lunches in the school cafeteria.

That's a possibility being explored in a new project by Alabama State University, state agriculture officials and the Montgomery Public Schools system.

Starting this fall, Alabama State students will collect cooking oil from the cafeterias, turn it into biodiesel and use it to run buses in a pilot program. Students at the schools will also be encouraged to bring used oil from their homes.

"When we're able to collect this grease and make (fuel) for 72 cents a gallon, hopefully we'll be able to do two things -- we're going to lower the fuel cost for the school systems and we're going to be environmentally friendly," state agriculture commissioner Ron Sparks said Wednesday.

"This is the message that we really want to send across Alabama: Every gallon that we can produce here in this country is one less gallon we have to bring out of the desert," he said.

Sparks, Alabama State president William Harris and interim Montgomery schools superintendent Clay Slagle announced the project Wednesday at the Center for Alternative Fuels in Montgomery.

Officials say they believe the project is the state's first using oil from school cafeterias and hope the program can grow if it's successful in Montgomery. At least three other school systems have tried using alternative fuels in their school bus fleets, stocking them with a blend of petroleum diesel and biodiesel.

Shree Singh, who directs the Center for NanoBiotechnology Research at ASU, said five to 10 students will be involved in the study and they hope to see early results in the first few months.

With 31,000 students and 55 schools, Montgomery's is the third largest school system in the state and spends more than $1 million on fuel each year, spokeswoman Mona Davis said.

She said the system expects to see about $20,000 in savings during the study phase alone with hopes the savings will continue growing if the pilot is expanded.

"It's a small savings but it's a savings that's needed especially in these times," she said. "If this works it's really going to help us along the year."

Tags: Alabama biofuels meat news oil renewable fuels schools transportation