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U.S. EPA gives $69,000 to University of Nevada to find ways to improve alternative fuel

Release Date: 8/5/2004
Contact Information: Laura Gentile ( gentile.laura@epa.gov ) - 415/947-4227

Project will identify cleaner, cheaper way to produce biodiesel fuel

SAN FRANCISCO -- Last week the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency awarded $69,000 to the University of Nevada at Reno to find a cleaner, more cost-effective way to produce biodiesel, which is cleaner burning and less polluting than conventional petroleum diesel.

The money will be used to fund a pilot project that will produce biodiesel fuel, which is made from renewable fats or vegetable oils, without the high costs and air pollution associated with conventional production methods. Biodiesel fuel is non-toxic, biodegradable and creates less air pollution than petroleum diesel. It is less toxic than table salt and biodegrades as fast as sugar.

The project will use ethanol to convert both virgin and waste cooking oil to biodiesel. Restaurants and hotels in this country produce over three million gallons of waste cooking oil annually, most of which ends up in sewers and landfills.

The project will use a mobile production unit built by the university that will be less expensive and cleaner to operate than the conventional process. Current methods to produce biodiesel are costly andrequire the use of methanol, which is toxic, corrosive and creates air pollutants. The project will use ethanol, which is less volatile, less toxic and cleaner.

"Thanks to this project, yesterday's french fry grease is tomorrow's truck fuel," said Jeff Scott, director of the EPA's waste division for the PacificSouthwest office. "Biodiesel is not only a viable alternative fuel with air quality benefits, but its use can also reduce the amount and expense of waste that gets sent to landfills across the country."

The University of Nevada will work with the Washoe County District Health Department and the Nevada Department of Agriculture on this project.

The Las Vegas area Clark County School district has 1,000 vehicles that are fueled with biodiesel, making it the largest biodiesel fleet in the world. Most of the biodiesel is produced with used frying oil from the Las Vegas casinos.

Last week the EPA awarded a total of $465,490 to seven similar projects aimed at reducing waste, promoting recycling and reuse and conserving energy and materials. For more information on these projects, go to: http://www.epa.gov/oswer/iwg/ . A current list of fuel marketers that are registered to provide biodiesel fuel is available at http://www.biodiesel.org.