Starting with an Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs grant two years ago, AIDB’s vocational program for adults at the E.H. Gentry Technical facility set up a small-scale program to reuse vegetable cooking oils as a fuel for diesel engines.
Called Project Green, the project was begun to help bridge the gap between alternative fuels research and public acceptance in using alternative fuels. AIDB was the first educational entity in the state to get involved in the project.
So far AIDB has mostly used oil from its own cafeterias; most restaurants in the area already had contracts for disposal of their oil before AIDB’s biodiesel program started. The goal Honda’s participation will give students more opportunities to process oil for use a fuel.
So far AIDB’s program has involved 17 students. They’ve collected 3,022 gallons of waste vegetable oil and turned them into 2,300 gallons of biodiesel, used in AIDB engines. Three trucks have been using a 20 percent biodiesel mixture, a pressure washer uses a 60 percent mixture, and lawn tractors are operating with different mixes.
The Environmental Protection Agency says biodiesel is the first EPA-designated Advanced Biofuel to reach commercial-scale production nationwide, with more than a billion gallons produced in each of the past two years. It’s being produced from sources including recycled cooking oil. Soybean oil and animal fats, with facilities in almost every state, and the industry supports about 50,000 jobs.
Honda already has a high level of environmental consciousness, with a strong emphasis on recycling and saving energy. HMA expects to save about $6,000 annually in oil pickup costs and diesel fuel charges, hardly noticeable for an operation that size, but it’s still a sign of commitment to environmental principals and local partnerships—and to the future.