Your Next International Flight Could Be Powered by Pig Fat Biodiesel

If you thought that the only purpose for bacon fat is to make everything taste better while clogging your arteries at the same time then you’d only be mostly right. Pig fat along with another animal fats actually make for a pretty decent fuel source. Though this isn’t exactly new information. We’re sure that you’ve seen videos of people modifying their diesel trucks to run on used fry oil from a fast food joint. Now before you go dumping a cast iron pan full of bacon grease into your Ram Heavy Duty Cummins pick up truck, you should know something. Using animal fats as fuel is only possible because it has to be refined into biodiesel. For the most part, biodiesel hasn’t gotten nearly the amount of press as other transportation fuel sources like electricity for example. However, that may change very soon.

Europe’s Transport & Environment Group (T&E) commissioned Cerulogy to conduct a study on the use of animal fats as a source of biodiesel and according to the results, there is already “significant pressure” on supplies of animal fat. This is because its use as a source of biodiesel has increased “fortyfold since 2006.” The supplies will only see more pressure from there as the study also says that demand for animal fat biodiesel is set to triple by 2030 when compared to 2021 numbers.

Airlines Ryanair and Wizz Air have both recently signed large deals with oil suppliers for sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs) and T&E suspects that at least a portion of those deals include animal fat biodisel. If you ever needed a fun factoid to share at the next BBQ, T&E’s study said that it would take 8,800 dead pigs to fuel a transatlantic flight from Paris to New York, each way. So you’re looking at 17,600 piggies round trip!

Alright, animal fat biodiesel apparently is big deal, especially in Europe which accounts for 46% of all animal fat biodiesel burned according to the study. So, what? What does that mean for us exactly? Generally speaking, utilizing something that would otherwise be trashed is a good thing. The potential issue comes when big business like airlines and oil companies decide they want to use more of the stuff. What happens if the demand for animal fat grows too high? Growing more animals just to slaughter for fuel isn’t the most sustainable option.

If consumers can’t get their hands on animal fats then they may turn to alternatives such as palm oil. Palm oil is cheaper and has properties that are similar to animal fats which all sounds like a good idea—especially for the vegans among you, but there’s a catch. According to the study, if virgin palm oil were to substitute animal fats, CO2 emissions of animal fat biodiesel could be up to 1.7 times worse than conventional diesel. Though, the study doesn’t say directly how that would happen.

We reached out to T&E for clarification and a representative explained that Cerulogy concluded that the 1.7x increase in emissions is calculated as an indirect consequence. For context, besides biofuels, animal fats are also used in the oleochemicals industry—think soaps and cosmetics. So, Cerulogy is saying that if the oleochemical industry also switches to palm oil the carbon saved by using animal fats will be outweighed by the net increase in carbon emissions from harvesting palm oil.

Essentially the T&E is saying that animal fat biodiesel is really just a band-aid in the fight against lowering carbon emissions, but if the transportation industry doesn’t get its demand under control that band-aid can turn into a gaping wound. We guess bacon really can’t solve everything.


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