FLORENCE, AL – City vehicles and equipment that use diesel fuel may soon smell more like home cooking as Florence explores an initiative to take residential cooking oil away from clogging the city’s sewers and recycle it into biodiesel, according to the Times Daily.

The initiative is touted as a cost-saving, environmentally cleaner alternative that could lessen the city’s dependence on foreign fuel sources.

The initiative, announced by Mayor Bobby Irons at a recent council meeting, also includes the potential long-term switch of the city’s gas fleet into E-85 flex-fuel vehicles that can use ethanol fuel mixtures. Irons said the city spends about $1 million in diesel annually, and if the city used B-20 fuel, a mixture of 20 percent biodiesel and 80 percent petroleum diesel, the city could see $100,000 in savings. The city’s fleet includes about 200 diesel vehicles and 400 gasoline vehicles, according to city officials.

Ideas under consideration include drop-off stations or residential pickup of used cooking oil, building a small biodiesel converter for the city’s use, and purchasing blended biodiesel from commercial distributors. By using biodiesel, the city may become eligible for federal tax credits that could give the city money to install in-house biodiesel converters or could reduce the price of pre-blended fuel.

Already, Florence has one publicly available biodiesel pump at 3155 Kendall Drive, operated by North Alabama Biodiesel.

The City of Hoover switched its fleet to B-20 biodiesel two years ago, and in March 2007, the city started a program that transforms used cooking oil into biodiesel. David Lindon, fleet management director for the city of Hoover, said the in-house biodiesel conversion cost about 80 cents per gallon, compared to the fluctuating cost of diesel for municipalities, which is currently more than $3.

Hoover now has 171 vehicles that run on some type of biodiesel, from B-20, which has 20 percent biodiesel and 80 percent diesel to B100, which is all biodiesel. The city used 60,000 gallons of biodiesel in 2007, of which about a quarter, 14,000 gallons, came from recycled cooking oil.