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  April 24, 2008 | Biofools « Previous | Current | Next » Comments (0) | Archives | About Email lind at

You read it here first: In May 12, 2005, I published a cartoon that modestly proposed using liposuction-harvested human fat as a biofuel. Now it has come to pass: The skipper of a boat in the Earthrace has used the fat of the skipper, Pete Bethune, and three volunteers to create 10 litres of biofuel to power his boat 15 km. (The rest of the distance will be powered by non-human biodiesel.) Read the Star article here.

Note: I revised my below entry. I originally used the less conservative estimate.

So, how many meals actually go into a tank of gas? According to the World Bank's 2008 World Development Report "Agriculture for Development",

over 240 kilograms (or 528 pounds) of corn – enough to feed one person for a whole year – is required to produce the 26 gallons, or 100 liters of ethanol needed to fill the gas tank of a modern sports utility vehicle.

Of course, this estimate depends how you google it. The Daily Telegraph says, "it takes 232 kg of corn to fill a 50-litre car tank with ethanol. That is enough to feed a child for a year." It attributes this to the UN. But I couldn't find the original source for this.

So I figured it was better to work with the figures I could source. I took the 240 kg / 100 litres as my starting point and did the math:

What they neglect to say in both estimates (and in all the other variations on the web) is that nowhere are cars powered only by ethanol. The Ontario government's goal was that gas pumps contain an average of 5 percent ethanol by 2007, so I assume we're about there by now.

This means that there is 5 percent of 240 kg, or 12 kg ethanol, in a 100-litre tank of gas in an average filleruppuccino. That's 5 percent of 365 days, or 18.25 days worth of food.

How many meals per litre? Dividing our 100-litre tank by 18.25 days gives us 5.48 litres - to keep it simple, we'll say 6 litres. If we assume our sample African is getting three square meals a day (an idealistic assumption if there ever was one), that makes half a meal per litre. Would that be a small pack of Doritos?

If you start with the supposed UN estimate, it's a meal a litre. Take your pick -- we drive, they starve.



You can see a more extensive portfolio of my work at the blog, including This Bright Future, a distilled and partial continuation of Weltschmerz, Turtle Creek, a daily comic about a turtle and a computer, and Footprint in Mouth, a quarterly cartoon I draw for Alternatives.

Weltschmerz in Print

Weltschmerz ran in Toronto's Eye Weekly from 1997 to 2007. It ran in weekly papers in southwestern Ontario, Ottawa and Edmonton between 1995 and 2008.

Notes on Writing a Comic Strip

I wrote this 17-page, 4 MB PDF document for my workshop at the 2006 Eden Mills Writers' Festival. It details the creation of one strip and gives tips on writing comics.

Politics and Environment

Monbiot | Guardian columnist and Heat author George Monbiot's blog. Not only about global warming, but expect plenty of refutations of the flat-earthers. His writing is witty, incisive and bang-on.

Desmog Blog | An indispensible (and Canadian) resource that "clears the PR pollution that clouds climate science."


Weltschmerz playlist at CBC Radio 3 | Some of the music I listen to while drawing this comic -- independent and Canadian.

This American Life | Radio documentaries that hit the heart, brain and funny bone.

CBC Podcasts | I don't listen to much live radio. Now, podcasts allow me to catch a lot of what I miss. I listen to The Current, Ideas, Spark and Search Engine while inking.


Diesel Sweeties by R Stevens | Witty repartee between guys, girls and robots drawn in a pixelated yet surprisingly versatile style.

Scott Pilgrim Manga-style indie-rock romance by Canadian Bryan Lee O'Malley | The most fun I've had in a comic book in recent memory. Highly recommended.

Dykes to Watch Out For | Alison Bechdel's brilliant weekly strip has been ghettoized because of its gay themes but deserves a wider readership.

Doonesbury | Garry Trudeau is still great after all these years.

Kevin Heuzenga | Enviable drawing style and dry wit. Start with Time Travelling.

Graeme MacKay | The editorial cartoonist for the Hamilton Spectator has a distinctive, addictive drawing style. And he makes me chortle.

Friends and Neighbours

Blog Guelph | Hometown photos and events.

The Narrative | Riveting photoblog. Matt O'Sullivan is at the right place at the right shutter speed.

Breast of Canada | A calendar promoting women's health.

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