Researchers at the University of Louisiana recently discovered that alligator fat might be an alternative source of biodiesel, a clean burning fuel that is primarily produced from soybeans. The problem with soybeans is that they also supply food for both animals and humans, so eliminating the need for them in the production of biodiesel is good news for everyone. On average, the US burns 45 million gallons of diesel annually, and sourcing just one billion of those gallons from soybeans would consume up to 21% of the American crop. But with 15 million pounds of alligator fat going directly into landfills every year, they may have found the perfect replacement.
So where’s all of this fat coming from? Rakesh Bajpai, a professor of chemical engineering at the university (and practicing vegetarian) explains that alligators, unlike crocodiles, are neither endangered or threatened. Not only are they grown and harvested for their meat and for their skins but they are plentiful in the wild. On Wednesday, Dr. Baipai and five other researchers published a paper in the journal Industrial Engineering Chemistry Research reporting that in recent lab experiments, they successfully converted 61% of the alligator fat to liquids that could be used to produce biofuel – changing that 15 million pounds of fat into 1.25 million gallons of fuel with energy content almost 91% as good as petroleum diesel. Now that’s potential!