Sunday, 6 May 2007

Dead corpse diesel

BBC News puts it this way: "A solution for the world's energy crisis may come in the form of a pig."

"American oil company ConocoPhillips and Tyson Foods, the world's biggest meat producer, have announced that they will produce diesel from pork fat.
Cows and chickens will also be transformed to power motor vehicles.
The companies say that this renewable source of energy will be cleaner than conventional diesel. It is hoped that it will be available at petrol stations by the end of the year."

The animal diesel will, according to Geoff Webster, who is managing the scheme for Tyson Foods, not come from animals processed solely for diesel, but it will be produced from "waste", i.e. the remains of the animals that are not used for meat products. Animal fat and "other waxy waste" is nowadays usually used as ingredients for soap, cosmetics and pet food.
Webster also argues that this solution is more environment-friendly than biofuel made from specially grown grain: "We feel that it is a huge step forward as opposed to taking grains which are needed for food around the world and turning those in to [sic] fuel."

But when the diesel is produced it will be "pumped into a network and mixed with other kinds of diesel", so it will be impossible to tell whether the diesel you use is made from animal fat or not. So, this will obviously be an issue for vegetarians and some religious groups.

Besides, while biodiesel, and especially this "animal waste diesel" is hailed as being so "environment-friendly", the point is missed that what actually causes more greenhouse gas emissions is not fossil fuels in cars, but cattle rearing. This is clearly stated in a recent report from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.

While I do agree that any form of "waste" should be reused in some way, it is rather uninformed to hail animal diesel as The Big Solution For The World's Energy Crisis.

I would say it would be wiser to make efforts to reduce our squanderous energy consumption, by making the things we use more efficient, but also by abstaining from many things that are not really necessary (city jeeps, anyone?). And while a lot of focus is put on the indivudual consumer when it comes to "living more environment-friendly", one should not forget that it's the big industries that cause the most environmental damage. Not least the meat, egg and milk industry with its factory farms.

But, regarding the use of animal waste for diesel - why not waste from humans? For instance, the plastic surgery industry certainly must produce a fair lot of human waste. And what about all the dead human corpses overcrowding our cemeteries, using up excessive amounts of energy being burned to ashes? Wouldn't it be better to turn grandpa into biodiesel, instead?

1 comment:

ainur said...

They had a better idea at some Pacific island where they started to do their part against pollution by turning coconut oil into fuel. It smells better. It doesn't have to be imported. I have to find the story again...