In Texas, Leftover Turkey Fat Fuels Biodiesel Cars
Author: Ed Stoddard
In the US South, folks like their Thanksgiving Day turkey deep fried -- and the city of Plano north of Dallas collects the bird fat from residents for use in the biofuels industry.
"This is our busiest time, the week after Thanksgiving. We collect about 500 gallons of turkey fat during that time," said Lois Woolf, a Plano City worker, as she hoisted a plastic container of oil left outside someone's home for collection.
In 2005, Plano collected 1,200 gallons of cooking oil, the vast majority turkey fryer fat. The bulk of it is picked up during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.
The turkey fat is donated to Biodiesel Industries, the first renewable energy-powered plant producing biodiesel fuel in the state of Texas.
Biofuels are gaining favor as an alternative "clean" fuel amid growing concerns about carbon emissions linked to climate change, high oil prices and instability in crude producing regions like the Middle East.
This is even the case in pockets of Texas, the heart of the massive US oil industry.
"The City of Plano has a rolling stock of 700-800 vehicles and 59 of these are using hybrid or alternative fuels," said Melinda Sweney, the Sustainability Communications Coordinator for Plano.
Plano collects the oil from residents who call in and ask for pick-ups -- and there is plenty of demand in a region where people like their food fried and crispy.
"The first time I heard about fried turkey was years ago in Louisiana and I thought 'who eats fried turkey,' said Plano resident Rita Keys.
"But it's good," she added as Marty Huffman, a Plano City worker, poured fat from a deep fryer into plastic containers via a funnel. The scent in the air was distinctly turkey.
The favored method is to use a deep fryer outside which is filled with peanut oil and heated with propane.
Forty-quart deep fryers typically are used -- "super-sized" like everything else in Texas.
This is a sharp contrast from American homes to the north where the big bird is usually stuffed and baked in the oven and the fat is consumed as gravy, not fuel.