By Joel Hall
A relatively new business in the Southern Crescent is giving people another reason to eat more chicken. The fat from chickens and other animals is being used to create locally produced, environmentally friendly fuel which may help wean Georgians off of foreign oil.
Since December of 2007, BullDog BioDiesel, located on Tanners Church Road in Ellenwood, has been producing millions of gallons of biodiesel, using chicken fat and other animal by-products.
While many biodiesel companies continue to make fuel out of corn and soybeans, fuel made from chicken fat has the potential to be mass produced without driving up the price of food.
As Georgia attempts to corner the market on ethanol and other renewable fuels, BullDog BioDiesel is putting Clayton County on the front lines of the battle. On Monday, U.S. Rep. David Scott (D-Ga), along with representatives from the Georgia and National Wildlife federations, toured the facility, which presently has the capacity to produce 18 million gallons of biodiesel a year.
"We're probably 25 to 30 percent of that right now," said Bobby Heiser, a partner with Bulldog BioDiesel. "By the end of the summer, we'll be to full capacity."
Heiser said that most biodiesel producers make their fuel using virgin soybean oil, but that chicken fat can produce the same quality diesel fuel with significant savings.
"Soybean oil trades now for more than diesel fuel can be sold for, so those people are having a hard time," said Heiser. "This is a renewable diesel fuel made from waste oil and animal fat."
Heiser said that as newer fuel stock materials -- like chicken fat -- align themselves with the fuel market, the price of biodiesel will eventually rival petroleum-based diesel fuel. However, cleaner burning, locally produced fuel will have long-term benefits on the environment and economy, he said.
"It's environmentally friendly. It's one small contributor to reducing our need for foreign oil, and it is better on the engine than ultra low sulfur petroleum," said Heiser. "That's how it is going to help the trucker."
Dawn Randolph, National Wildlife Federation outreach coordinator for the climate change initiative, is also a resident of Stockbridge. She said that while the technology to convert animal fat into biodiesel is still in it's "infancy," she is happy that the research is "happening in our backyard and we are benefiting from it."
"It is exciting that BullDog BioDiesel has found a way to get what they need to generate that energy other than relying on plants," said Randolph. "It burns cleaner, it emits much less carbon, and the production of it is amazingly less degrading to our environment than petroleum.
"It may raise the price of chicken fat, but we don't eat that," Randolph added. "The primary goal is cleaner-burning raw materials and the hope is for more affordability down the road."
Scott, who is currently working on legislation to create a flex-fuel mandate on all new U.S. vehicles, said BullDog BioDiesel puts Clayton County "on the cutting edge" of dealing with the energy crisis.
"This whole technology is less than two years old [and] they are producing million of gallons of [biodiesel] right here," he said.
"It cuts the cost of distribution, because there is such a big market for it right here. It is a tremendous asset for Clayton County."