The alligator meat industry sends 15 million pounds of fat to landfills each year. What a waste, thought researchers in Louisiana who have shown it makes for a great biofuel.
The fat, which is trimmed off in processing, is rich in oils that can be recovered and converted into biodiesel, according to Rakesh Bajpai and colleagues at the University of Louisiana in Lafayette.
In lab experiments, the team successfully converted 61 percent of the alligator fat into a liquid usable in biofuel, according to a report in the journal Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research.
"Alligator oil can be used as a potential biodiesel feed stock and given that this feedstock is traditionally a waste product, its use should result in reduced processing costs," they conclude in the paper.
The gator biodiesel was similar in comparison to biodiesel from soybeans, the main source of the 700 million gallons of biodiesel produced in the United States in 2008.
The use of alligator fat instead of soybeans could help stem the diversion of food crops to fuel, which seems like a net positive in a world facing food shortages.
As for the alligator meat industry, the reptiles are grown and harvested for their skin and meat. The skin ends up in fashionable wallets, boots, and belts while the meat appears on menus.
"They say it's very good," Bajpai told the New York Times. "I don't know. I'm a vegetarian."
According to the newspaper, the 15 million pounds of alligator fat could amount to 1.25 million gallons of fuel with an energy content that is 91 percent as great as petroleum diesel. The cost of processing would be about $2.40 a gallon, not including the transport the presumably free fat to the plant.
Alligator fat derived biodiesel would join other alternative sources of oil such as leftover fryer grease from restaurants and sewage. To learn more about those sources, check out the stories below.
More on alternative biofuel:
- Used cooking oil stolen - by biodiesel pirates
- Shrimp cocktail may help make biodiesel
- Fuel from cooking oil is starting backyard fires
- Oil from algae? Scientists seek green gold
- Is algae biofuel too thirsty?
- 'Poo-Gloo' devices digest sewage
John Roach is a contributing writer for msnbc.com.