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FUEL FOR THOUGHT

FUEL FOR THOUGHT

first_imgOf the 1400 class hours students need to get their diesel mechanic certificate, 50 hours are spent on learning about new, cleaner technologies. “Ten years ago we spent zero hours on biodiesels and special smog tests. It wasn’t important as long as the engine was pulling that load,” said diesel instructor Allen Cochran. “The engines were designed for power; smoke wasn’t an issue.” But now that what is spewing out of big rigs has become an environmental, political and health issue, the next generation of mechanics is learning how to deal with it. Students are taught how to install particulate traps and mufflers to clean exhaust, how to perform special smog and smoke tests and how to convert older engines to burn cleaner fuel. “No matter what kind of fuel the trucks are using, the mechanics will need to know how to maintain it and troubleshoot for problems,” said Cochran, a mechanic who has taught the diesel class for 17 years. “I get a lot of customers come in saying to me, `I got ticketed for having too much smoke, what can I do?’ Our future mechanics will need to know this stuff to get the jobs.” By Megan Bagdonas STAFF WRITER The popular diesel class taught at Harbor Occupational Center has added a “green” focus into its curriculum. Realizing the shift toward cleaner burning fuels and low-emission engines in the trucking industry, San Pedro’s trade school has begun teaching students how to service new biodiesel engines and alternative-fueled trucks and buses. Earlier this year, Cochran took his students to an alternative-fuel vehicle convention held in Diamond Bar to familiarize them with the new wave of cleaner-burning engines. “I wanted to expose students to the new energy and give them an idea of what alternative fuel is,” he said about the convention put on by the South Coast Air Quality Management District. On a recent day in class, Cochran was teaching his students about a biodiesel fuel that uses 20 percent vegetable oil and 80 percent low-sulfur diesel. He told them that the fuel releases less sulfur, which causes acid rain, into the air when burned. However, the fuel also has significantly less lubrication qualities than regular diesel. He then showed students how to put in additives to restore the fuel’s lubrication qualities. Student Thomas Sanders, 40, said he feels the pressure to start learning about the new techniques and technologies used to clean up diesel engines. “With fossil fuels, we really don’t know how much longer we’ll have those available. But with vegetable oil, we know we’ll have that for a long time,” said the San Pedro resident. “And from the alternative fuels standpoint, their emissions aren’t as deadly, and by using them we’re saving the fossil fuel so that our grandchildren have something to play with.” [email protected] local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img