A leading Beverly Hills plastic surgeon claims to have found an environmentally friendly way to combine two of America's great obsessions – after converting his 4x4 to run on fat removed from clients during liposuction operations.
Alan Bittner, who founded a high-profile clinic on Rodeo Drive, the Bond Street of Los Angeles, claims to be able to power both his Ford Explorer and his girlfriend's Lincoln Navigator on biofuel converted from excess flesh from human tums, bums and thighs. "The vast majority of my patients request that I use their fat for fuel – and I have more fat than I can use," he says. "Not only do they get to lose their love handles or chubby belly, but they get to take part in saving the Earth."
Dr Bittner made his claim in a posting on the internet site lipodiesel.com, adding that he has performed roughly 7,000 liposuction operations, and that a gallon of human fat will produce roughly the same quantity of biofuel.
Scientists say there is no reason why human fat cannot be turned into biofuel, since it contains triglycerides which are no different from those found in waste animal fats that are already being used for the same purpose. However the discovery left medical regulators unimpressed. Using human medical waste to power vehicles (or indeed for any other commercial purpose) is largely illegal, and Dr Bittner's clinic has been raided by California Health Department officials. The magazine Forbes says that Dr Bittner's ability to create what he calls "lipodiesel" first came to light in lawsuits filed by several former patients, who recently accused him of allowing his girlfriend and assistant, who were both unlicensed, to carry out intricate operations.
A gallon of "lipodiesel" will give motorists roughly the same mileage as they would get from regular diesel, the magazine added. At present, most biofuel is made from a mixture of specially grown corn, and left-over beef or pork products.
Sadly, Dr Bittner is no longer around to bask in his new-found fame. His practice in Beverly Hills suddenly closed shortly after last month's raid, and he is believed to have moved to South America.
Lawyers representing several former patients are currently attempting to track him down. One of them, Andrew Besser, claims Dr Bittner's unlicensed girlfriend removed too much fat from his three clients, leaving them horribly disfigured. Dozens of other patients have complained to the State Medical Board, he added.
Dr Bittner's lawyer is yet to comment. A notice on his website claims that the doctor is currently living in Colombia.