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Both Sides of Bio-Diesel

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

There’s a productively firey debate going on over bio-diesel – even among the local users who are questioning the inclusion of animal fats in the waste oil blends. Vegans and others are concerned over the possibility of financially supporting the conventional meat-producing industries (who, as we know, practice toxic and cruel methods of farming and slaughter) by purchasing bio-diesel fuel.

As a soon-to-be member in our local bio-diesel co-op at Piedmont Biofuels. and environmental and animal rights activist, I want to know the facts. Below are excerpts from letters recently published in our local Indy, in response to this brief article on Piedmont Biofuels. It is worth reading the entire letters if you can – they frame the debate well.

Letter: “The use of animal feedstocks financially aids the producers of them by providing one more revenue stream, allowing them to avoid disposal costs—whether it is the main item produced or incidental to the production of some other. If you purchase a product, you support its production. ” Read More

Portion of response: “Poultry farmers have been getting paid for their poultry fat for years, this is not a new revenue stream for them created by biodiesel demand. Poultry fat gets fed to cattle, swine, and poultry, and turned into cosmetics among other uses. Small scale biodiesel producers, who are offering an alternative to petroleum, are trying to stay commercially viable by utilizing the feedstocks that are most cost effective; these usually end up being ones that are found closest to home.” Read more

This shows, once again, that there are no uptopian answers to consumption issues and that we should all stay open and informed from all angles when making lifestyle choices.

My bottom line on Bio-diesel? Though it’s preferrable to recycle and reuse our waste products (of any kind), it’s more important to remember that this does not take away the need to REDUCE OVERALL CONSUMPTION. I’m not switching to bio-diesel so that I can wile away the miles in a car with a little less guilt. I’m still going to choose walking, bicycling and mass transit when possible and overall, drive less.

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5 Responses to “Both Sides of Bio-Diesel”

  1. Phil Says:

    I don’t happen to agree with vegan philosophies and definitely disagree with the statement indicating farmers and packers “practice toxic and cruel methods of farming and slaughter”. But that’s irrelevant. We all make value-based judgments regarding our consumption, or various other, choices and yours are certainly as valid as mine. Diversity is a positive influence when those of diverse backgrounds and viewpoints are united in the effort to achieve a unified goal. The word “University”, it’s said, is derived from the two words “Unity” and “Diversity”.

    Personally, I’d rather focus on those points that we have in common rather than those in which we differ. It’s unlikely that I’ll be untrue to my core values, and I’d hope you’d be true to yours, as well; that doesn’t, however, preclude cooperation, on a human level, to solve mutual problems.

  2. tao Says:

    Thanks for visiting us and for your comments, Phil. You have shared wonderful sentiments about diversity and unity, two important pieces of a peaceful, productive and worthwhile existence.

    I’m not sure, however, how it applies to the issues of factory farming/pollution/cruelty? Are you aware of the methods used in the conventional meat-producing industry If so, could you enlighten me as to what part of it is NOT cruel or toxic to the animals and the environment?

    If I’ve been misinformed, I would certainly appreciate knowing that we are actually being responsible to all living beings rather than exploiting them and the environment for our own use.

    There is endless information, including footage and photographs of the conditions of feedlots and slaughter facilities. Please refer to this article is yesterday’s (Jan. 27, 2008) NY Times, Rethinking The Meat-Guzzler, for the most recent journalistic reporting on this issue.

    Thank you for your input. Tao

  3. Phil Says:

    I don’t believe that the road to solving problems will always, or ever, be peaceful. Individuals experience turmoil, an inner violence, when struggling, for example, with certain decisions. When interacting with others, in certain pursuits, inner violence is often expressed outwardly. I can’t think of a single instance in which significant change, social or otherwise, for better or worse, has occurred without violence; physical, psychological, or both.

    My purpose in leaving a reply to your biodiesel post was not intended as a veiled entry into a discussion/argument on the merits, or lack thereof, in meat production. Rather, it was intended to express the belief that those possessing opposing opinions can often find the common ground on which to base cooperation to the mutual benefit of all. I was noting our commonly held beliefs.

    I sense by the tone of your reply that you consider your position regarding veganism and meat production / consumption to be singularly valid, transcending barbarism, while assuming I hold my position simply because I lack the correct information, experience or education. Rather than focus on the point on which we agree you’ve focused, instead, on the point of disagreement; I find that to be quite interesting.


  4. tao Says:

    First, I’m no longer vegetarian or vegan (because I now have access to meat and dairy products directly from local farmers, humanely raising grass-fed animals.) Second, my post concerns bio-diesel in relation to using animal fat from factory farms, so it stands to reason that I am extremely curious about your opinion and any information that I may have missed concerning this issue. I find it interesting that you have avoided answering my specific question.
    Hoping to learn more, Tao

  5. The Tao of Change » Blog Archive » Changingly Yours - my journey to bio-diesel Says:

    […] got a friendly little community in my area and many people are offering helpful advice regarding I need to know to be a bio-driver. (Now, this feels good – maybe not as much as being on a bicycle instead of in a […]

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