Research into biodiesel fuel for use in city operations will continue after the Mount Shasta City Council decided on Monday that such a program could be both financially and environmentally advantageous.
City Manager Kevin Plett addressed the council, explaining that much research has already been put into the subject, and that he’d like to finish the work began last year.
Biodiesel would be manufactured from used cooking oil gathered from local restaurants. The oil is filtered to remove impurities, and then, according to the website www.biodiesel.org, a chemical process called transesterification is used, which separates the oil into two products: glycerin and methyl esters (the chemical name for biodiesel).
Biodiesel can be used in any diesel vehicle without modification to the existing engine. Mayor Stearns explained that in colder weather, biodiesel would be mixed with petroleum diesel in a 20/80 mix, although in warmer weather, a much higher percentage of biodiesel could be used.
Plett cited the three main missions of a biodiesel program in Mount Shasta.
Firstly, the program would keep the source material (used cooking oil) out of the city sewers, by allowing restaurant owners the opportunity to get rid of their waste in an easy and legal way.
Secondly, the program could save the city money. Plett estimated that if the city got the source material for free, the cost of biodiesel would be about a dollar a gallon, and that if the city used 200 gallons of biodiesel a month (for fueling vehicles and in heating systems as well) the capital used to purchase the machine would be recouped in 14 to 21 months. “There would be a fairly quick turnaround,” Plett said.
Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, biodiesel is better for the environment. Because it is made from renewable resources and has lower carbon emissions compared to petroleum diesel, Mount Shasta City would be a leader in protecting the environment.
Mayor Pro Tem Michael Murray said that during a time when the city is looking toward economic development, a biodiesel project may be a step in that direction. “We’d also be keeping our city green and protecting our waters.”
The main drawback would be the time invested into the product’s manufacture, including the pick-up of the raw material and the actual manufacturing. One of the things Plett would concentrate on in his research will be the possible partnership with another organization in order to reduce the workload of the operation. “This would be a win-win – if we can partner,” said Stearns.
After research, Plett will bring his findings back to the council in order for them to make a decision about implementing the program.
76 sign removal
Also at Monday’s meeting the council passed a motion authorizing the City Attorney to file an abatement procedure to remove the abandoned and non-conforming 76 sign at the center of town.
It was explained that before filing any legal documents, he would first attempt to negotiate the matter with the station’s owner, in the interest of saving money and time.
Councilor Sandra Spelliscy said she would be in favor of going through the process to regain legal fees incurred by the situation. Porterfield disagreed, saying, “In light of the economic climate, I think it’s important to not go beating up our business owners any more than the economy already is.” He went on to say that the sign in question has been an issue for as long as he’s been here, and has been non-conforming the entire time. “We now have the opportunity to remove the sign,” he said, “but not with a hammer.”
Other motions passed
The council approved the Downtown Sidewalk Repair project as complete, and approved Plett’s request to have additional environmental impact reports done on the Orchard Property, which has been proposed for annexation to the city. The council also voted to remove five police vehicles from an upcoming public auction, in order reconsider the department’s options.
The next council meeting will take place on Dec. 8 at 6:30 p.m. at the Mount Shasta Community Center.