Published: Jun 09, 2010 3:38 AM EDT
Updated: Jun 09, 2010 12:38 AM EDT

CAPE CORAL, Fla. - A plan led by a long time Cape Coral resident could help the city become a pioneer in renewable energy.  The idea would convert the city's trash into a cheaper, cleaner-burning synthetic diesel fuel.

Lars Mansson helped form Red Energy Group after the construction downturn hurt existing business, hoping to find ways to build green.

His group now leads the push for an innovative process, combining methods used in Europe: take trash to a central indoor facility, condense it into odor-free pellets, then convert it to fuel, all without pollution.

"We can use everything organic," Mansson said.  "Used tires?  Fantastic.  Plastic.  All our organic waste that goes in we can use and convert to synthetic diesel."

Cape Coral's trash is already turned into a kind of energy, burned at the Lee County Waste-to-Energy plant in Buckingham.  But the Red Energy Group idea could reduce sanitation bills by keeping trash in the Cape, and providing fuel from the new facility for the hauling trucks

"The synthetic diesel by itself is stronger than the biodiesel," Mansson said.  "And (it's) even stronger than the diesel you buy at the pump, so it burns cleaner and stronger."

The plan was presented to the Cape City Council Monday, showing it would cost the council nothing, and could in fact save the city money.  Red Energy Group would even offer the diesel it makes to the city at a discounted price.

"(We) emphasized over and over: 'You're not asking for money, you're not asking for land, what are you asking for?'  Just your trash."

In a letter to city leaders, Lee County Solid Waste managers expressed concern about whether the new technology would work.

But Mansson and his engineers say it can: saving money, reducing waste, and providing alternative fuel.

"If everything works out, we could be the first one in the United States."

The only action the city council would need to take is switching it trash contract from the city to Red Energy Group.  That doesn't come up until later this year.  Mansson hopes if they win that approval, the facility can start operations about a year and half later.