Bio Tour Brings "Vegetable Oil" Bus To Mississippi Gulf Coast

The aging blue bus that pulled into the parking lot at the foot of Courthouse Road in Gulfport Thursday is actually a "green" machine.

"There's estimates that we've already reached peak production of world oil last year. And if it wasn't last year, it's coming soon," said Ethan Burke, as he told visitors about the alternate fuel which powers the bus.

No worries about oil prices here. The "Bio Bus" runs on used vegetable oil.

"78 percent less carbon dioxide," explained Alan Palm, "The same engine as it was when this was in the Maryland school system like 15 years ago. It's just the fuel delivery system that's been modified."

That modification allows the diesel engine to recycle restaurant oil that's been used to fry foods.

"So, we welded these three drums underneath there. And you can see in the center one, that's full of waste vegetable oil we got from a Chinese restaurant," Palm explained to a visitor.

Restaurants are happy to give away their waste oil.

"There's not enough of this stuff for us all to start running on waste vegetable oil. But there's enough that it should definitely be applied to reduce our demand on petroleum," said Palm.

Along with producing a cleaner emission, burning vegetable oil also produces a better smelling emission. Some say what comes out of the exhaust smells like fried doughnuts, others say more like fried egg rolls.

Solar panels provide another alternate energy source to recharge batteries aboard the Bio Bus. The Bio team says public awareness and acceptance of alternative fuels will prompt more government funding.

"Truthfully, the large scale changes we need in society require governmental action. Because all the industries that provide our fuel today have been subsidized in their development," says Burke.

The Bio Tour team is sharing its success all across America.

"Definitely for the amount of money that we've saved on fuel traveling as much as we do, it's paid for itself many times over," Palm said.

Waste oil that powers the engine is usually free. The cost of a fuel conversion system is 12 hundred to four thousand dollars. The "Bio Bus" gets about 10 miles to the gallon of vegetable oil.