Talking Turkey about Biodiesel

by Julie Walsh on November 21, 2007

Should we be turning our turkey drippings into fuel for our cars instead of gravy?

Though a great idea, it’s still not cost competitive. But many are looking to Congress for this gravy-boat: “producers of U.S. biodiesel, traditionally made from soybeans, are fighting a joint bid by oil giant ConocoPhillips and meat processor Tyson Foods Inc. for access to a credit ($1 per gallon) for “renewable diesel” fuel they would make from animal fat,” according to Jeffrey Ball in his WSJ article, “As Energy Prices Soar, U.S. Industries Collide,” (subscription required). That tax credit is then paid by those at the bottom of this pecking order—taxpayers—after all.

And though originally promised to be economically competitive with crude oil at $50 a barrel, crude oil will now have to be at $130 a barrel before, specifically, palm-oil based biodiesel is competitive. Large amounts of petroleum products are used in the planting and harvesting of soy and the transportation of the fuel. "Biodiesel is inextricably linked to oil," said Wallace Tyner, an agricultural economist at Purdue University.

Therein lies the problem with using Tom’s fat to drive us home from Grandma’s Thanksgiving dinner.

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