Could alligator fat become a source for biodiesel?
Lipids derived from gator fat meet nearly all the official standards for high-quality biodiesel.
Sun, Aug 21 2011 at 12:20 AM
Gator-on-a-stick is a scrumptious novelty food you might find in many parts of the American South. Now researchers think the crocodilian's meat could also help fill your car's gas tank, according to PhysOrg.com, writing about an article published in the journal Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research.
Experiments conducted at the University of Louisiana have shown that alligator fat meets nearly all of the official standards for high-quality biodiesel, and using it as a fuel source shouldn't interfere with its value as a food product.
Many sources of biofuel have become controversial because they are derived from food products such as corn, grain, soybeans or other vegetable oils, and therefore compete with the food supply. For instance, biofuel production has been blamed for rising food prices. Projected over the next 10 years it could account for as much as a 5 percent increase in the price of wheat, a 7 percent increase for maize, and a 19 percent increase for vegetable oil.
Of course, alligator is a food source too, but a large portion of the gator fat processed each year — 15 million pounds — is discarded by the alligator meat industry and disposed of in landfills. Since so much gator meat is wasted every year, using it to supplement the nation's biodiesel stock would lower processing costs compared to other common feedstocks. In other words, filling up your vehicle with gator fuel shouldn't significantly increase the price of your gator-on-a-stick.
Gator is a particularly efficient source for biodiesel because of the high lipid content in the meat. Researchers were able to easily recover those lipids by microwaving frozen samples and applying a chemical solvent.
Although gator fuel could only provide a small portion of the 700 million gallons of biodiesel produced in the U.S. each year, it could nevertheless become a crucial piece in a larger plan to reduce the strain of biodiesel on our food supply. Scientists have also been investigating other alternative feedstocks, such as Chinese tallow, used vegetable oil and even sewer sludge.
But filling your vehicle up with one of those options just doesn't seem as quintessentially American as running your car on gator.