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McDonald's to Run Emirates Trucks on Own Oil

Tue, 07/05/2011 - 5:50am
MICHAEL CASEY,Associated Press

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — McDonald's is fueling its trucks in the United Arab Emirates with oil from its own vats.

Dubai-based Neutral Fuels announced Sunday that it had reached a deal to convert used vegetable oil from McDonald's outlets in the UAE into 100 percent biodiesel to power the fast food giant's delivery trucks across the Gulf country.

It started testing the biodiesel last year and started producing it for McDonald's at the end of May.

"This one in particular is exciting because I don't think anyone has really tried that hard to sell this sort of fuel back to the Arabian Peninsula," said Karl W. Feilder, the chairman of the Neutral Group. "It's the first time we are doing it with a fuel that burns 50 percent cleaner than normal diesel and has a lower carbon footprint because it's coming from a waste vegetable product."

McDonald's said the biodiesel initiative was part of larger plans in the UAE, which is flush with crude oil but is also trying to stake its claim as a leader in renewable energy. Among other things, McDonald's is a partner in one of the country's main environmental watchdogs, the Emirates Environment Group.

"McDonald's UAE has demonstrated a passionate and long-term commitment to investing in environmental initiatives," said Rafic Fakih, managing director and partner of McDonald's UAE.

Neutral has capacity to produce 1 million liters (264,172 gallons) of biodiesel a year in its Dubai facility and can double that amount if it increases the number of shifts. It would not say how much oil will be produced by McDonald's more than 80 outlets in the Emirates, but says it's enough to power the chain's vehicles in the country.

It is not the first time McDonald's has run its vehicles on biodiesel, having done so in England and most recently Austria. But it would be the first time any company has tried to do it in the Middle East, a region where the incentives are lower to use alternatives fuel because oil is so cheap and plentiful.

The McDonald's trucks are also being fueled with pure biodiesel — not a mix as seen in many parts of Europe and the United States.

"One of reason to do that is prove to people that you don't have to modify your vehicle to run biodiesel," Feilder said. "The technology is so good and McDonald's oil of such good quality that we can produce biodiesel for the same price that you can buy normal diesel on the street."

The fact the McDonald's announcement is happening in the United Arab Emirates is no accident.

The UAE has taken a lead in recent years among Gulf nations in attempting promote renewable energy in the region and tackle global warming. Abu Dhabi is home to Masdar, a government-run company focused on low-emission technologies that is building a futuristic clean-energy city in the desert outskirts of Abu Dhabi.

It also is base for the International Renewable Energy Agency, a new organization established to promote renewable energy such as wind, solar and other nonpolluting energy sources.

"Things have changed a lot in the last couple of years," Feilder said. "There is more money spent in this country than any Gulf country on sustainable initiatives and the educational process required for bringing this knowledge to the masses."

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