We had the story yesterday about ConocoPhillips and Tyson teaming up to produce biodiesel in Europe from leftover pig fat. Undoubtedly animal rights activists would be upset, and we raised the possibility of religious implications. From a purely academic angle, however, is using animal waste unethical for producing fuel?
Eco-ethicist Ethan Greenhart answered the question in his column at spiked-online, and took 959 words to say no rather colorfully to pork power.

"What on Gaia's good earth were you thinking of when you applauded the further enslavement of animals and the exploitation of their bodily fluids and residue just so the likes of eco-criminal Jeremy Clarkson and other 'lads' (an acronym for 'lazy and dangerous scum', perhaps?) can do 200 miles per hour on an A-road?!" screams Greenhart in the opening paragraph, and his voice gets louder from there.

Greenhart quickly blames all of the world's problems on SUVs and oil.

"Forget butterflies flapping their wings and causing hurricanes. When you fill your car with petrol in London it causes a nightclub to explode in Karachi. Just think about that," growls Greenhart.

And it doesn't take long to equate using animal waste to the Nazi death camps.

"Please, Harold, tell me what the difference is between using dead animal blubber to power cars and the Nazis' use of the skin of death-camp victims to make lampshades?" asks Greenhart.

Greenhart tells his readers that he has a pig friend named Dubya and talks to him often. He says pigs are "beautiful, peaceful and courteous creatures."

Greenhart closes with a plea for readers not to use soaps or pet food with animal fat even though the stink from pet poo will increase.

I think many readers are over-reacting to this story. The idea, as I see it, is redirecting resources. Instead of using leftover pig fat, or any animal fat, for soaps, glue and pet food, the waste can be used for a cleaner fuel. I don't foresee animal-based biofuels generating dedicated factory farms just to feed new refineries. The pig-to-tank costs and possible negative energy return may rule out economic advantages of using swine as a specific feedstock. I think the goal is just to make better use of existing animal waste. And we're already using animal waste in myriad ways that most people are unaware. I remember writing a story on slaughterhouses for a business magazine a while back. The plant manager told me every part of the cow except the horns was used in some way, many of which we don't always recognize, or don't want to know about. Before getting all righteous over animal waste that will continue to be generated, whether biodiesel is produced or not, let's look at this issue from an economic and energy standpoint first.

[Source: Ethan Greenhart / spiked-online.com]


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