Twenty miles north of Salt Lake City, Utah, a flowery, red and yellow safflower crop is being harvested. These test plots at the roadside simulation lab at Utah Botanical Center are part of an innovative Freeways-to-Fuel project sponsored by the Utah Department of Transportation, the National Biodiesel Board and others. According to NBB CEO Joe Jobe this project signals a breakthrough in how America may capitalize on millions of acres of idle lands along roadsides as well as at military bases, airports and local municipalities.
Safflower, canola and soybeans are examples of the oilseed crops that can be grown and harvested to simultaneously produce vegetable oil for biodiesel, as well protein for humans and livestock. The Freeways-to-Fuel initiative also offers a way for governments to save money. It reduces costs for mowing and otherwise maintaining the lands.
Salt Lake City and County officials intend to put the concept to work on 200 acres of vacant land near an airport that is held for a future wastewater treatment plant. Currently, the land grows only weeds and even caught fire in early August. Now the city and county intend to use the land to grow safflower to make biodiesel. Salt Lake County Council member Jim Bradley called the project the wave of the future.