Animal Fats as Fuel for Planes, Trains and Automobiles
There is no doubt that biofuels are an important aspect in the green movement. Many celebrities have encouraged the use of biofuel. Daryl Hannah founded the Sustainable Biodiesel Alliance to help reduce our dependence on foreign fossil fuels. Hannah, who is a strict vegan, uses biofuels that are derived from renewable plants such as corn, soy, peanuts, and hemp. Other biodiesel options include biofuels derived from animal fats, vegetable oils, and grease. Tyson Foods has decided to further capitalize on the animal fats produced in slaughterhouses.
A partnership between Tyson Foods, Inc. and Syntroleum Corporation has created Dynamic Fuels, a joint venture that makes millions of gallons of animal-fat-based diesel a year. Forbes has reported that Dynamic Fuels has announced the sale of millions of gallons of the animal-fat biodiesel to Norfolk Southern railroad. The 50/50 mix of conventional jet fuel and renewable jet fuel will be used to power freight trains.
Flights using the animal-fat biofuel are already taking place. Alaskan Airlines, Finnair, and Thomson Airways have initiated flights using Dynamic Fuels’ renewable jet fuel and have scheduled over 200 more flights that will use the biofuel.
There are some good qualities to animal-fat-based biodiesel. It offers higher energy content, better cold flow properties (it functions better in cold weather), and reduces carbon dioxide emissions. All of these qualities are what people seek in a “green” alternative energy source. But what is the risk to animals?
Millions of animals are slaughtered in Tyson Foods slaughterhouses each year. Adding other slaughterhouses to the equation ups that number up exorbitantly. Roughly 10 billion pounds of animal fats are produced each year from slaughterhouses across the United States. Most of it is not thrown away. In fact, animal-fats are used in soaps, crayons, cosmetics, shortening and other products. There really isn’t a whole lot left over to make fuel with.
According to Forbes, “The Dynamic Fuels plant, and other bigger one being developed by oil refining giant Valero Energy, will soak up about 10% of total fat supplies.” This begs the question: Will more animals be needlessly slaughtered to produce more animal-fat for this new biofuel industry?
Another downside is the cost. Syntroleum has reported that it is losing money in this venture and that it won’t be able to turn a profit until buyers are convinced to pay a premium for this newer, better fuel.