Japanese scientists believe they have found a way to deflect criticism of their country’s whaling program by inventing a novel process that turns blubber from whales into a powerful fuel additive, resulting in greatly reduced CO2 emissions.
The Japanese press quotes the lead scientist, Dr Imajodan of Usotsuki Kogyo Daigaku (Usotsuki Institute of Technology) in Kyoto:
“We have been working with the whaling industry for a while on various projects. At the beginning of this process, as scientists we really felt that they were simply using our work as a fig leaf to circumvent the ban on commercial whaling.
However, in 2009 we started to really investigate the chemical properties of whale blubber and within months we realized that we had found something very interesting here. Remember that the blubber not only insulates these mammals, but also stores energy for them.
What we began to realize is just how much energy was stored in this whale fat. We were then able to extract the particular compound that is mainly responsible for this, and we found that by just adding a small amount of this to the fuel tank of an otherwise unmodified car, the fuel efficiency improved by an average of 78%.”
The reports show some quite amazing results – with the hybrid cars seeing the greatest relative benefit. For example, let’s take the poster child of the hybrid car scene – the Toyota Prius – that already has an amazingly low level of consumption at 89 g / CO2 per KM.
Now , quite unbelievably, Dr. Imajodan’s testing shows that adding just 0.1 liter of this whale blubber extract to a full tank of high octane fuel is enough to reduce its fuel consumption to an incredible 23 g / CO2 per KM.
“Yes, frankly, we were amazed at the results. We knew there was something special about this compound, but we still did not quite realize what we had on our hands until we began our real-world testing and started to see figures like this.
As a scientist, global warming has caused me a lot of concern, and so it is really a wonderful thing to have been able to make this discovery which will be able to create so much benefit to the planet.”
Of course, Japan’s whaling lobby has been quick to jump on this discovery as justification for further extending the moratorium on whaling for scientific research. Akihiro Akunin of the Kujira Kento Kai (Whale Research Council), a privately-funded lobbying group in Tokyo clearly found it hard to conceal his satisfaction when interviewed by the Japanese media:
“I think this really does justify the position we have adopted over the decades. We have been attacked and vilified by so-called environmentalists, when all along we have been engaged in some incredibly important scientific research that is now bearing this very impressive fruit.”
Which brings us to another problem: Although Dr. Imajodan and his team have been trying to recreate this compound synthetically, they have been defeated at every turn.:
“This is an incredibly complex chemical – the kind that nature creates in very complex cellular processes, the like of which we have yet to be able to simulate in the lab, let alone in a mass-manufacturing process.”
Dr. Imajodan sees only two realistic options in the near-term future, either of which will put environmentally-conscious people around the world in a very uncomfortable dilemma:
“As I see it, nature has gifted us this opportunity to save our planet from the disaster that is global warming. We have shown how small doses of this chemical can save considerable amounts of CO2 emissions, and so we cannot stand by and wait while a synthetic alternative is created. This could take years, and by then it may be too late to save the planet.
We really have no choice but to do one of two things: Expand our program of whale hunting is the first option. The current population of whales should be able to support the whole of Japan, which would create a significant dent in global CO2 output.
The second approach that we have started work on is the use of genetics. The whale’s closest evolutionary relative is the common farm cow. Now, the results of our initial genetic modification experiments have not necessarily been very pretty, but we believe that we will be able to engineer cows that produce the same kind of fatty blubber as these whales. In the longer-term, this could be the answer to creating a global supply of this compound.”
So there you have it: Stop global warming, or save the whale? Which way will you jump?