Oh hell yes
we really did.
Ever heard the urban myth about the Beverly Hills liposuction clinic that sucked out fat and turned it into biodiesel fuel? Well, it's not a myth.
We called it LipoDiesel. And we got 11 miles to the gallon.
This is our story.
We are Craig Smith and Steph Smith. Los Angeles. Pacific Palisades.
LipoDiesel is biodiesel fuel made from
human fat removed during liposuction.
Yes, you read that correctly.
Why make fuel from human fat?
Because why not. We need to save the Earth.
Before we tell the story of how and why we turned human fat into fuel for our car, it's important to understand a few basic things.
First, way back in 2007 we were running the world's largest and most successful liposuction clinic in Beverly Hills on famed Rodeo Drive. Our clinic treated over 100 patients a week and we removed gallons of unwanted fat every day. Our patients kept asking if we made soap from the fat (remember this is 2007 and Fight Club was still a part of pop culture) and we'd explain that their unwanted fat was incinerated as medical waste.
Second, fat is a form of energy. Whether fat comes from animal, vegetable or human, fat can be turned into fuel. We were not the first people to notice that human fat is abundant and it kinda-sorta qualifies as a renewable energy. We also were not the first people to notice that humans need to find alternative sources of energy because carbon is killing us.
Third, we didn't invent biofuel. Turning fat into fuel was already a thing. Creative, earth loving people were already taking fat, typically used cooking oil, and turning it into biofuel for vehicles. But we were the first (perhaps also the last?) to turn human fat into fuel.
LipoDiesel is liquid biofuel made from the oil stored in human fat cells. Unlike the diesel fossil fuel found at your local gas station, LipoDiesel does not release carbon into the atmosphere. Biofuels like LipoDiesel can be used as a replacement to biofuel in any diesel engine.
We used LipoDiesel made from our patient's fat to fuel our Mercedes GL 320 Diesel. We got about 11 miles to the gallon. No harm was caused in the making or using of LipoDiesel in our car.
Our license plate was LIPODSL.
Like a lot of radical ideas, LipoDiesel started off as as part joke, part inspiration. Making fuel out of love handles, jiggly bellies and saddlebags is funny. This is America, land of too much fat. If you don't see any humor in using liposuction fat for fuel, we feel a bit sorry for you.
Our goal in making LipoDiesel wasn't just to get laughs. We were - and continue to be - concerned environmentalists who oppose wars for oil. We believe our reliance on fossil fuels is both poisonous to the Earth and detrimental to our country's security. Even in 2007, we thought seriously about what we could do to minimize our carbon footprint and leave the Earth a better place.
We had already lived in Brazil and owned a car that ran on ethanol from sugarcane so we knew that finding fossil fuel alternatives wasn't a matter of technology; it was a matter of political will. We didn't have heaps of excess sugarcane but we did have gallons of excess fat. We were sucking gallons of fat out of hips, thighs, stomachs, double chins, and back rolls every day. Our liposuction office had a running joke about human fat being an "renewable energy source" and this joke prompted us to do a bit of research. We quickly discovered that the process of making biodiesel was simple. In fact, turning fat into fuel was so simple that we began making LipoDiesel (bio diesel fuel) in our office on Rodeo Drive.
Once we realized making LipoDiesel was possible, we began to talk to our patients about it. Remember, most people wondered if we were making expensive soap from their fat (watch Fight Club for reference) and when we mentioned our LipoDiesel ambitions patients were enthusiastic. It's not hyperbole to say that a few people cried with joy. The idea that the fat that they hated with a passion could be transformed into something good was very powerful.
We bought basic biofuel equipment online and sometime in late 2007 we made our first batch of LipoDiesel. Thigh fat from a woman named Samantha was heated, agitated and treated with chemicals and the results were LipoDiesel history.
Our patients LOVED the LipoDiesel project. We had special consent forms so patients could decide if they wanted their fat used for fuel or incinerated as medical waste. 99% of patients wanted their fat used as fuel and we had way more fat than we could use. Patients were happy that their unloved fat could be transformed into something to help the environment. The idea that their love handles or saddle bags could power an SUV was pretty mind blowing.
We knew LipoDiesel was an idea that would get people talking and we hoped LipoDiesel would help illuminate the possibility of alternative energies. We wanted America to have a conversation about alternative energy and hoped that by bringing some humor to the topic more people would engage in saving the Earth. If we could make an alternative energy source on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, maybe getting off carbon fuels wasn't as impossible as it seemed. Did we think human fat was a solution to our energy problems? Of course not! We aren't insane. LipoDiesel was simply an interesting way to show people that with creativity and openness to new ideas, anything is possible.
In late 2008 the media picked up on our LipoDiesel story and all hell broke loose. Not everyone was a fan of our creativity. Not everyone had an open mind. Some people are insane.
We are sorry (not sorry)
if LipoDiesel offends you.
LipoDiesel is equal parts intriguing and disgusting. We totally understand that there is a bit of an ew-factor with using human fat for fuel. You might have already guessed that we are not squeamish people, but it is not lost on us that LipoDiesel was a bit gross. We don't think human fat is a viable alternative to fossil fuels - and we don't believe average people should be converting raw fat (human or otherwise!) at home into fuel. We made LipoDiesel because we are curious by nature, oppose foreign wars for oil and we are desperately concerned about the environment. Maybe you don't share our sense of humor, but we never imagined that people would find our LipoDiesel chemistry project deeply offensive.
It may not surprise you today, but in 2008 it took us by complete surprise that some people were outraged by LipoDiesel. Not just grossed out, but seriously outraged. We meant no offense - and we only used fat from patients that wanted to contribute - so the online reaction was truly a shock. In 2008 our culture didn't have the words for "manufactured outrage." The term "internet troll" had yet to be invented. We have the rare honor of being dox'd a decade before the term was invented. When we began to get death threats from anonymous online sources, it was terrifying.
After an employee was stalked and we had protesters visit our home, we moved and eventually changed our last names.
Why were people so offended by LipoDiesel? There is no easy answer to crazy. We were (of course!) compared to Hitler. Lots of people thought that using liposuction fat was exactly the same as the ovens in concentration camps. Many people seemed to think the project was misogynistic and antisemitic. Nevermind that we are feminist and Jewish. Others claimed that burning the fat was unholy per scripture. Nevermind that medical waste was incinerated anyway. There were many who feared that the burning of the fuel in our car's engine would send viruses like HIV into the air and others who worried that if we used the fuel in our private jet (I wish!) we'd be showering hepatitis into clouds. Nevermind science...and on and on.
Although we had thousands of supporters and late night talk show hosts all around the planet thought LipoDiesel was hilarious, the threats against us were graphic and felt very real. We made several police reports but the internet is a difficult place to police.
Our last gallon of LipoDiesel was made in September of 2008.
Who Made LipoDiesel?
Steph Smith and Craig Smith in Pacific Palisades. We've done other interesting stuff besides LipoDiesel.
Check out our personal website's below.
Hello. We are Craig and Steph Smith, creators of the weirdest biofuel ever made, LipoDiesel. We made the first and last batches of LipoDiesel in at our liposuction clinic on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, California between 2007-2008.
We hoped that LipoDiesel would be a funny and lighthearted way to engage people in the possibilities of alternative energy. We did not intend to freak people out.
The media picked up on the LipoDiesel story and their reporting got a lot wrong. LipoDiesel was something we really did make and use in our Mercedes GL 320 Diesel. We got about 11 miles per gallon.
This website is the true LipoDiesel story.
We understand that LipoDiesel is kinda gross. But we also think it is kinda cool. We believe we need all hands on deck to help save the Earth and get us off fossil fuels. We should not be fighting wars for oil or supporting authoritarian nations simply because they are oil producers.
Should we all be using human fat in our cars instead of fossil fuels? Hell no. That's an insane idea. But our reliance on fossil fuels needs to change and there are other sources of energy all around us, if we are creative and willing.
We are environmentalists who pride ourselves on trying to live as close to carbon neutral as we can. We currently drive all electric Teslas powered in part by solar panels.
Steph Smith is currently a real estate developer active in the cannabis industry in Los Angeles. Craig Smith is Los Angeles based investor in alternative energy companies.
Words from people who gave their fat to the LipoDiesel project.
I've hated my extra pooch forever...it's cool that that it will be used in their car'!"
...I've tried to burn off this fat forever! I'm glad it will be burned in a car instead. I look great and it feels good to know my fat was good for something!"
What a cool idea! I'm gladly donating my gross fat to this project. If I can look better and help the enviornment, I'll do it!