KAHULUI—Pacific Biodiesel Inc. of Kahului has built a plant in Japan to convert used cooking oil into fuel. It is the first in a series planned for East Asia. Robert King, president of Pacific Biodiesel, says it is similar in size to the refinery at the Central Maui landfill—with a capacity of 200,000 gallons per year. The plant at Nagano will be a demonstration project for alternative fuels and conservation keyed to the 1998 Winter Olympic Games there. Its feedstock will come from Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants around Nagano. Yoshida & Co. will own and operate the plant, supplying oil from its own chain of fried chicken restaurants. The plant went into operation last month. King says it is a profit-oriented business, as well as a company promotion for the Olympic crowds. The Pacific Biodiesel fuel manufactured from used restaurant oil on Maui is being used in trucks, boats, hotels and standby electric generators. The biodegradable alternative fuel reduces tailpipe emissions, visible smoke and odors. It operates in conventional diesel engines. Mayor Linda Lingle said the county could be proud of the Nagano deal, “the first recycling manufacturing facility developed on Maui to export this technology to another country”. Pacific Biodiesel is also the first Pacific Rim firm to build biodiesel refineries from the ground up and use cooking oil, says King. There are larger refineries in Japan and in the Philippines, but they produce biodiesel as a by-product of making glycerin. King says though he doesn’t have statistics, an “eyeball” estimate of auto traffic around Nagano suggests that perhaps 30 percent of cars use diesel. Because Japanese energy costs are high, biodiesel will be competitive, King says, even priced the same as petroleum diesel. That would not be true in America, where fuel prices are low in general. King said he could not reveal the price of the Nagano plant, because of restrictions imposed by the buyer, but the Nagano refinery is “the first in a series”. Yoshida & Co. was founded in 1865 to sell cooking oil, lamp oil, soap, bath perfumes, candles, creosote and coal tar. It now has 1,200 employees selling petroleum, machinery and auto pans, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Pizza Hut pizza, computers and software, telecommunications services, appliances and insurance. Other divisions deliver packages and provide temporary employees.