Police patrol vehicles in the Philippines capital are kissing high-priced gasoline goodbye in favor of more cost-efficient biodiesel - made in part with used cooking oil donated by local McDonald's restaurants.
With oil prices at an all-time high, the project, spearheaded by the Makati branch of the Philippine National Police, aims to convert squad cars in Manila's bustling central business district to run on a combination of 60 percent diesel and 40 percent cooking oil, according to police Senior Superintendent Gilbert Cruz.
McDonald's is the first fast food chain to offer donations for the program - oil used to cook French fries and fried chicken, but other restaurants may soon help to grease the wheels of law enforcement.
"It's a win-win situation for us because we will both benefit," Cruz told French news wire AFP. "The cooking oil of their Makati stores will be reused and the Makati police will use it as a component for their biodiesel and also save money."
Cruz estimates a savings of more than $10,000 a year for the Makati police. One police car has been converted to use the biodiesel mixture and is already patrolling the streets. The test phase will last for six months.
"We will still be able to do our regular rounds of patrolling despite a cutback on our fuel supply. It's a good solution," he told a local television network.
If the program proves successful, Metro Manila chief Geary Barias says he may recommend the biodiesel program be adopted by the entire country's police force. He says the savings from the program may be used to fill the need for more police firearms.
Diesel currently sells for about $5 a gallon in the Philippines, even higher than the ethanol mix available in the market. It's powers the fleets of "jeepneys," the half-jeep, half-bus vehicles which are Filipinos' main mode of public transport. But, the soaring fuel prices have prompted public transport operators and vehicle owners to take innovative measures.
Earlier this month, a small fleet of E-jeepneys, an all-electric version of the jeepney, started cruising the streets of Makati. Meanwhile, taxi drivers are switching to liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), which is almost half the price of diesel.
Politicians have also taken the lead in converting their cars to LPG-powered engines. Last month, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed an executive order that mandates 20 percent of government-owned vehicles to have engines powered by LPG by September this year.
By Barnaby Lo