Monday, September 05, 2005

Fish Bio-diesel


Once in a while there is a news item that really sparks the imagination. This article on fish oil is such an article. The ramifications, as stated by an Alaska Energy Authority official, are the sustainability of remote villages, diesel oil requirements in delicate ecosystems, powering fish processing plants, and maybe at some point, fishing vessels.

Diesel engines that power most things were developed to utilize cheap petroleum diesel and don't run very well on fish oil, even mixed with petro diesel. Maybe as the result of the latest energy crisis, we'll start to see diesel engines that can run on cruder grades of oil. We're not stuck by any means. I remember one diesel I saw that required throwing chunks of burning oil soaked hemp rope into each cylinder to ignite the oil during starting. In one sense, we've gotten spoiled on compact, high-speed diesel enginges.

I'm not saying we should go backward on this, we may more realistically go to hydrogen fuel at some point. But in the meantime, there are up to 200 million salmon caught in Alaska each year whose various parts could be used for bio-diesel. Not to mention the black cod, and many other species. This flys in the face of the slurry fertilizer people. Someone will have to decide what is the best public use for fish waste at some point.

Fishermen may want to have the oil from the wastes to substitute for the expensive petro-diesel that leaves such a huge hole in their pocketbooks these days. And nobody is talking of diesel getting any cheaper. So maybe fishermen need to weigh in on this subject too. The trouble is, fishermen sign away the title to the fish they caught, and have no more say in what happens to the wastes as they do the edibile portions.

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