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Tyson Foods and ConocoPhillips to Produce Diesel Fuel

By Clifford Krauss (The New York Times) - April 17, 2007

Tyson Foods and ConocoPhillips have cooked up a new recipe for your pickup truck.

The two companies announced Monday that they were forming an alliance to produce and market diesel fuel made from pork, poultry and beef fat. It was another sign that farmers and agribusinesses, which are now producing corn for ethanol, will be playing an increasingly large part in the country’s energy future. The new brew should be available at the neighborhood filling station by the end of the year.

The companies said that the diesel, which will be shipped and distributed through existing pipelines from ConocoPhillips refineries, would burn cleaner than conventional diesel. Much of the feedstock for the fuel will come from several Tyson rendering plants.

“This strategic alliance is a big win for the entire agricultural sector because it paves the way for great participation of fats and oils in renewable fuels,” said Richard L. Bond, Tyson’s president and chief executive.

ConocoPhillips, the third-largest American oil company, began producing some diesel from soybean oil last year at a plant in Cork, Ireland. The processing technology for the fat-based diesel was developed and successfully tested at the Irish plant.

The oil company’s alliance with Tyson indicates an even greater interest in pursuing biofuels; several other companies including Chevron and BP have expressed similar interests recently.

Efforts to reprocess animal fat will begin at some Tyson plants by the end of the year, and production is expected to reach 175 million gallons a year by 2009. That represents about 3 percent of the diesel produced by ConocoPhillips in the United States.

A total of 250 million gallons of biodiesel was produced in the United States last year, a minuscule percentage of the total American diesel market. But biodiesel production is expected to grow to 1.2 billion gallons a year in about a decade.

ConocoPhillips disclosed it was spending up to $100 million on the project. Tyson indicated it would invest a smaller sum.

“ConocoPhillips believes the key to a secure energy future is the development and efficient use of diverse energy sources,” said James J. Mulva, the chairman and chief executive. Mr. Mulva added that the program would help “reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” which scientists have linked to global warming.

At a news conference here, Mr. Mulva said the new source of biodiesel, though relatively small, would help the country meet its energy needs. “In a tight market every incremental increase helps improve supply availability and reduces retail price pressure,” he said.

BP has been working with DuPont for several years to make new biofuels, including biobutanol, a substance that has similar uses to ethanol but can possibly be shipped by pipeline. It is made from sugar beet stocks.

Chevron formed a strategic research alliance last year with the Georgia Institute of Technology to make cellulosic biofuels out of wood or switchgrass. It also invested in a biodiesel plant in Galveston, Tex., which uses soybean oil as a feedstock. The plant will have the potential to produce 100 million gallons a year.