Exhibit A: Bad Biofuel
By Meredith Brody
On first reading, this bright idea seems heaven-sent for combining two New Year's resolutions: contributing to a greener planet by using less gasoline, and, hey, dropping a few pounds while you're at it.
Alas, this Beverly Hills (where else?) liposuction doctor's simple plan - using the fat he sucked out of his patients' bodies to fuel his Ford SUV and his girlfriend's Lincoln Navigator (nice gas-sucking choices, by the way, doc!), turned out to be illegal.
Not if Dr. Craig Alan Bittner had been performing the procedures at his now-shuttered Beverly Hills Liposculpture on chickens, beef, and pigs, that would have been perfectly OK. Fat (animal or vegetable) contains triglycerides that can be extracted and turned into diesel.
Adaptive re-use is hot. Old-fashioned adaptive re-use: in the bad old pre-cholesterol-conscious days, McDonald's fried its french fries in pure raging beef fat that it trimmed from its burger meat - and boy were they delicious. Now they use vegetable oil - and a gallon of grease equals, amazingly, about a gallon of fuel. Which is why you've also heard about theft of used fast-food oil by thieves who sell it to biodiesel manufacturers.
Big-time manufacturers are looking into trimming the fat, literally and figuratively: Tyson Foods would like to power its trucks on chicken fat. Biofuel concerns mix pig lard and beef tallow with soybean oil to make their diesel.
The good doctor was so clueless (in more ways than one - he's also being sued for allowing unlicensed personnel to perform procedures that left clients disfigured) that he advertised his save-the-earth plan right on his (now-defunct) website, lipodiesel.com: "The vast majority of my patients request that I use their fat for fuel - and I have more fat than I can use. Not only do they get to lose their love handles or chubby belly - but they get to take part in saving the earth."
Alas, the state of California frowns on using human medical waste to, uh, fuel vehicles. Baby, you can drive your car, but not thanks to my spare tire!