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Is Human Fat The Ultimate Bio-Diesel Fuel?

Posted by: Bruce Nussbaum on May 13, 2009

One of my most popular posts is on the Earthrace bio-boat fueled by human fat. I want to return to that conversation because it is important—even if it is yucky.


I need someone to do the math— 30% of all Americans are obese. A significant percentage of Chinese are now obese. Lots of Europeans are obese. And many of the rest of us are just chubby—10 to 20 pounds overweight. Just how many pounds of fat are available to us annually to make bio-fuel? What about pricing?

Let’s take this seriously and think about a sustainable, organic cycle that actually takes advantage of the fact that we eat too much, we eat too much meat, and we are, well, too many “we’s” on the planet (this biomass instead of people). So instead of complaining about all that biomass, why not use it for energy. Plug an energy use factor into our current culture of fatness.

If we can power a trimaran around the world on human fat, can’t we use our portly bodies to get our portly bodies around cities?

Reader Comments

Dale Raymond

May 14, 2009 3:29 PM

And another effort is gathering off the coast of Cadiz.
"Banc Populaire", a maxi-tri is attempting to beat the historic Discovery Route record established by Francois Joyon of 59-days, 20-hrs, 35-minutes, . . . under sail.
Her carbon footprint is of another type, at over 90', but she will not burn any oil in making her way 'round.
-Dale Raymond

ike raoul

May 14, 2009 5:37 PM

Creepy as hell.

Not that it isn't possible to use fat for energy. But that you'd want to engineer a system that would in effect assure the sustainability of the human race as fat production machines?

Hello, WALL-E?

Really, this is right up there with Soylent Green and Water World.

Want to encourage fat-burning mobility? It's called a bicycle.


May 15, 2009 3:45 PM

Animal fat is cheap. Why would a human risk his life and health for a measley $1.99/lb? Now, if the biodiesel company were to buy the fat from hospitals (the results of liposuction surgery perhaps), that might make sense.


May 15, 2009 7:42 PM

The Brits are way ahead of us with the Airpod - a car that runs on air. It's reviewed in The UK Guardian.


May 15, 2009 10:49 PM

Give blood, save lives; give fat, save the planet - I think not.

I have a hard time imagining that people will undergo liposuction to power their homes - where will they get the "extraordinary show of dedication" shown by the skipper (but was it really necessary - was the race in jeopardy if he did not donate the 100ml of body fat?). This is just silly.

Eating smart (call it "smart consumption") is the only way to make a serious dent in many of the environment and health related challenges before us.


May 16, 2009 1:27 AM

Fightclub anyone? Yeah, no wonder there's a lot of energy in our hips and waists, but i don't think the process of: encouraging people to do it, going to the clinic, extracting the fat, recovering from the process, will make more energy than it consumes. Then you have the socially harming paradigm of "no problem if i eat fat, i'll go to my monthly extraction and i even get rewarded for it mom!!!" I'd rather think about poo as an energy source.


May 22, 2009 7:23 PM

Bruce, I hope you are stretching to be the devil's advocate on this one. I know you would never actually be blind to the blatant idiocy of encouraging energy wasting and health destroying over consumption to address the unmet demand and health issues associated with our current energy producing paradigm.

August 27, 2009 4:20 PM

Bio diesel is the new energy star, the name is a general one for a variety of ester-based oxygenated fuels made from soybean oil or other vegetable oils or animal fats


December 16, 2009 2:21 AM

I think it s a fabulous idea, I can so see it, hospital offers free liposuction, next door is the micro distillerie, everybody is happy, not any creepier than staring at a 300 pound
human, so what are we waiting for ?
of course such fat will have to be dehydrogenated or it won t burn, but they
know how to do that these days,
obese people please come forward and
DEMAND your free liposuction.


March 1, 2010 10:02 PM

A plastic surgeon is a wanted criminal for doing turning the fat extraced from several patients and processing it into a biofuel for his car. Of course he didn't obtain permission from the fat donars wich is why he is currently a fugative. However, I have 100lbs of fat I could donate for further research into the feasibility of an alternate fuel source.

wind turbine fail

May 16, 2011 2:48 PM

I'll promote your green related website on our blog. Plenty of traffic and rewards for taking a second and submitting a product or idea you have for green energy

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Want to stop talking about innovation and learn how to make it work for you? Bruce Nussbaum takes you deep into the latest thinking about innovation and design with daily scoops, provocative perspectives and case studies. Nussbaum is at the center of a global conversation on the growing discipline of innovation and the deepening field of design thinking. Read him to discover what social networking works—and what doesn’t. Discover where service innovation is going and how experience design is shaping up. Learn which schools are graduating the most creative talent and which consulting firms are the hottest. And get his take on what the smartest companies are doing in the U.S., Asia and Europe, far ahead of the pack.

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