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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 April 2007, 16:03 GMT 17:03 UK
Pig fat to be turned into diesel
Pigs will now not only be for eating but powering cars too

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.

"It is chemically equivalent to diesel itself," said Geoff Webster, who is managing the scheme for Tyson Foods, in an interview with the BBC World Service.

"It has lower Carbon Dioxide, it is zero sulphur, so many positive benefits for the environment."

Animal power

In two years, ConocoPhillips expects to produce in the region of 175 million gallons of animal diesel a year. That will add another 15,000 barrels of diesel a day, which amounts to about 3 percent of the company's total diesel output.

It will receive pre-processed fat from a Tyson Foods rendering facility. Animal fat and other waxy waste is usually turned in to ingredients for soaps, cosmetics and pet food.

car filling petrol
Animal diesel will be available at US pumps by end of 2007

The company expects to spend approximately 100 million dollars over several years on the project, and will probably enjoy tax breaks.

Since 2005, US oil companies can benefit from a dollar-per-gallon tax incentive for creating renewable fuel from animal carcasses and other food wastes.

While other car fuel replacement products already exist in the form of bio ethanol - made from grain, palm oil and sugar cane - Mr Webster said that animal diesel will not be made at a cost to food production.

"We won't be processing animals simply to get the fat to turn them in to fuel. We're taking a by-product and using that for fuel," Mr Webster said.

"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 fuel."

Vegetarian issue

Biofuels are seen as a way of reducing harmful emissions from burning fossil fuels.

While animal diesel may be an environmentally friendly alternative, there are fears it may not be to everybody's tastes or ethics.

Mr Webster admitted that they were yet to discuss this new product with vegetarian and religious groups.

The diesel when produced will be pumped into a network and mixed with other types of diesel. It will not be possible to tell at petrol stations whether the diesel is made from animal fat or not.

In a statement, the animal rights group PETA expressed its dismay.

"A recent report published by the United Nations concludes that the meat industry is responsible for more global warming emissions than all the cars, trucks and planes in the world combined."

"Clearly, the answer to global warming isn't to fill gas guzzling cars with ground up remains of tortured animals, it is to go vegetarian, which is something every person can afford to do and should do for the sake of their own health, animals and the environment."

Tyson Foods' Geoff Webster speaks to Theo Leggett

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19 Sep 06 |  Americas
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18 Apr 06 |  Science/Nature

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