ATHENS - Could chicken fat be the fuel of tomorrow? Some scientists at the University of Georgia think so.
In fact, at times over the past couple of weeks the entire campus has been heated with grease - burning poultry fat, yellow restaurant grease and similar "biofuels" - in one of the giant steam boilers that produce hot water and heat for buildings across the campus.
All without a single odor complaint, said Tom Adams, outreach coordinator in the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering.
In tests that began the last week of January and are scheduled to run through the end of next week, Mr. Adams and consulting engineer Bob Synk have found that such fuels might be a surprisingly good alternative to fuel oil. They can be cost-competitive, and animal products are safer to handle and may have less environmental impact than coal and oil, they say.
The potential is great, said Mr. Synk, head of Athens-based Project Management Resources Inc. The nation's dependence on foreign oil is increasingly seen as a national security threat, and the U.S. energy plan calls for supplying up to 20 percent of the country's energy needs through alternative fuel sources within two decades, he said.
And while going to war over petroleum is an all-too-real scenario, going to war over chicken fat is not.
The United States produces about 11 billion pounds a year of poultry fat, yellow grease (from restaurants), "choice white grease" (pork fat) and tallow (beef fat), Mr. Adams said. A big chunk of that is produced right here in Georgia - the poultry industry alone produces about 2 million pounds of chicken fat a week, he said.
The research is being financed by two industry groups, the Georgia-based U.S. Poultry & Egg Association and Illinois' Fats and Protein Research Foundation.
The Augusta Chronicle recently ran a series of stories about alternative fuels. Click on the date to read the story:
Jan. 27, 2001: With stricter environmental laws and ongoing political unrest in the Middle East, many in rural America say the answer to the country's energy woes is ethanol, a fuel additive made from corn.
Jan. 29, 2001: United Energy Distributors in Aiken is the nation's first "biofuel retailer," according to the National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition.
Jan. 30 2001: The United States depends on foreign oil while many other countries, including Brazil, have vehicles burning 100 percent ethanol.
Jan 31, 2001: Energy company Diamond Shamrock was talking about building an ethanol plant in rural Dumas, Texas, but things got quiet after the company was acquired by a major oil producer.
Feb. 1, 2001: Researchers say they are improving ethanol to the point where the natural fuel performs as well as gasoline.
Feb. 2, 2001: An expected increase in ethanol demand has Midwestern states vying to be the market leader.