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Fill ‘Er Up With Human Fat
Peter C. Beller, Forbes
How a Beverly Hills doctor powered his SUV using his patients’ spare tires.
Liposuctioning unwanted blubber out of pampered Los Angelenos may not seem like a dream job, but it has its perks. Free fuel is one of them.
For a time, Beverly Hills doctor Craig Alan Bittner turned the fat he removed from patients into biodiesel that fueled his Ford SUV and his girlfriend’s Lincoln Navigator.
… Using fat to fuel cars might be environmentally friendly, but it’s definitely illegal in California to use human medical waste to power vehicles, and Bittner is being investigated by the state’s public health department.
(22 December 2008)
Food, Fuel and Fiber? The Challenge of Using the Earth to Grow Energy
Alan Atkisson, WorldChanging
… Food, fuel, or fiber? Farmers have suddenly (sudden, that is, in historic terms) many more choices about what to sell to the increasingly globalized market. And those choices are, as usual, strongly influenced by prices. Why grow soy beans for tofu to be eaten in Indonesia, if you can make significantly more money growing corn for bioethanol to be used in American cars? The farmer makes a rational switch, triggered by the price, which sets a chain of events in motion … and ends in riots and rainforest clearing.
These kinds of systemic linkages, with their unpredictable and nonlinear side effects, are becoming more and more common as previously separate markets begin merging into one. Agriculture has always been divisible into food and fiber production: lands might be used for edible grains and vegetables (some of it eaten by animals, some by people), or wearable cotton and flax. But as long as food production was keeping ahead of population growth and demand, food and fiber were not really in direct competition with one another, at least in any problematic global sense.
But the entry of fuel into the picture (that is, “biofuel”), coupled with accelerating demand for both food and fiber, is changing the global picture considerably. Suddenly, the arable land on Earth is a scarce resource that can be used either to create the food we eat, the materials we use in clothing and textiles, or the energy we need to power our vehicles.
In fact, the picture is even more complicated than the phrase “food, fuel or fiber” suggests, because of the increasingly complex interactions between agriculture and industry.
(22 December 2008)
Obama buys the biofuel hype
Robert Bryce, Guardian
The senator from Big Corn is now the president-elect. And he’s buying the hype on biofuels. On Tuesday, Stephen Power of the Wall Street Journal reported that Barack Obama’s transition team has been talking to the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) – the trade group funded by the corn ethanol producers – about a bail-out for the ethanol industry. And on Wednesday, Obama announced that the former governor of Iowa, Tom Vilsack, would be the next secretary of agriculture. Announcing the selection, Obama said Vilsack would be part of the “team we need” to strengthen rural America, create “green jobs” and “to free our nation from its dependence on oil”.
According to Power’s story, the RFA provided Obama’s team “with some ideas on how to craft the language” on an economic recovery package. Those suggestions include the creation of up to $1bn in short-term credit facilities that could allow ethanol producers to finance their operations” and “a $50bn federal loan guarantee programme to finance investment in new renewable fuel production capacity and supporting infrastructure.”
(19 December 2008)
New Michigan law allows animal carcasses to be used to make energy
Ted Roelofs, The Grand Rapids Press
Roadkill is the new green, under a new law that allows turning dead deer and other rotting carcasses into energy.
Championed by Ottawa County state Rep. Arlan Meekhof, the measure adds a new end point for dead animals now dumped in landfills, incinerated or trucked to rendering plants.
“I didn’t know there was this mass quantity of flesh that could be helpful,” marveled Meekhof, R-West Olive.