Alabama Agriculture & Industries Commissioner Ron Sparks is encouraged by the increased attention on alternative fuels in recent months.

The idea of fuels derived from sources other than oil is not new to those in the agriculture industry. In fact, Alabama’s Department of Agriculture & Industries has been involved with the testing and production of alternative fuels for many years. As the Birmingham Airport Authority prepares to use biodiesel produced at the Alabama Biodiesel Plant in Moundville in all of it’s diesel powered vehicles and machinery, Sparks hopes that others will follow their lead.

“I think it is extremely important to develop alternative fuels that will make us less dependent on foreign oil, but getting machinery that can produce biodiesel in mass quantities can be expensive,” said Sparks. “That’s why the Department of Agriculture & Industries helped provide a grant to help the Moundville plant start producing. We also want people to know that you can make biodiesel without all the big equipment.”

According to the National Biodiesel Board, biodiesel can be used in any diesel engine and tests have shown that it has a less harmful environmental impact than fuels produced from crude oil. Recycling vegetable oil is good for the environment and lessens the United States’ dependence on other countries for fuel. It can also save consumers a lot of money.

The tools needed to make biodiesel in small amounts include a large supply of fryer oil, a portable tank, a siphon, and knowledge of safety precautions necessary when working with chemicals. The process of combining the oil and chemicals to produce fuel can take under an hour and the cost is no longer prohibitive.

"We commend anyone who wants to try to produce biodiesel for their own personal use," said Richard Campo, Vice President of the Alabama Biodiesel Plant. "Just remember, commercially we need to follow the American Society for Testing and Materials D6751 Standard and the engine manufacturer's recommendations. However, individuals that make it on their own and cannot do all those tests need to be aware that fuel that does not meet those standards may cause their warranty to not be upheld. By producing biodiesel, we hope to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and also help farmers and the economy of Alabama and the United States."

To learn more about producing alternative fuels, visit www.biodiesel.org.