Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Let Them Eat Coal!

Last weekend, I had a discussion with my father-in-law on my food burning post. We talked for quite some time, and I lamented the silliness of the U.S. strategy to use ethanol as a motor fuel. I am confident that I didn't have much to add to the conversation because I am still pretty upset about how dumb the idea is. "That post was as close to a rant as I have seen," according to my co-worker Lonnie. I think what Lonnie was trying to tell me is that I didn't mask my real feelings about the stupidity of the energy policy that we are pursuing as a country.

Anyway, since Bob is a great problem solver and looks for unconventional approaches, he suggested that the way out of this whole expensive food mess (food riots in the Third World and rice rations at Costco) is to research how to turn our massive coal reserves into food. When he said that, I think I was stunned at both the brilliance and the irony of the idea. We plant corn, wheat, and other grains (perfectly good food products) with the expectation that they will be burned in internal combustion engines to power our cars. At the same time, we have decided that we cannot use coal (a perfectly good energy product) to produce electricity or to run our cars as motor fuel.

This makes perfect sense ... in Bizarro World!

I have now decided that what the U.S. really needs is a "Manhattan Project" type of effort to figure out how to turn coal into food. Eating our coal reserves may be the only way we will be able to get at the energy contained in this fuel. I am looking for investors to get in on the ground floor of this brand new market.

I can see it now. A whole line of barbecue products. Lignite patties will replace hamburgers, anthracite links will replace hot dogs, and bituminous sausages will take the place of brats. All we need is a few billion federal dollars to investigate the feasibility of our products. After we show that it could be done for thousands or millions of dollars per pound of food (and you thought Kobe beef was expensive), we can ask for federal subsidies to help us "compete" in the market place. The subsidies should be good for a couple of billion dollars per year. Finally, when our investment really takes off and the same suckers that are now buying organic foods start buying our products, we can get billions of dollars for NOT producing food from coal.

"A billion here, a billion there and pretty soon it adds up to real money."* Now, who's ready to invest in my sub-bituminous "Hot Pockets" idea? What could possibly go wrong?

*Everett Dirksen during a debate in the U.S. Senate


Josh & Margo said...

I totally agree that the corn for fuel thing is one of the stupidest ideas, it does not make any sense. I have noticed on your blog that you have talked several times with a negative tone about the people who recycle, change lightbulbs, or try to reduce their energy consumption. I don't know that anyone knows for sure if this global warming thing will pan out or not but my opinion is that it is not bad to use less energy and therefore not put a bunch of chemicals in the air from power plants. And it is not bad for us to use less and recycle. These things may not have any effect at all and it may not matter in the long run but then again it might so if we can use less and pollute less why not. We recycle and use the new lightbulbs and stuff like that. It doesn't hurt us any (the lightbulbs even save us money) and it doesn't hurt the environment just in case it can be hurt.

Russ said...

Josh & Margo,

You are not wrong about my negative attitude toward people who think that they are "saving the world" through recycling and reducing energy use. It is an arrogance on their part to believe that humans have that much power. I don't doubt that most of us could save money by either recycling or conservation (or both). There is absolutely nothing wrong with the reduce, reuse, & recycle philosophy, but it has become a religion to some.

I believe that humans are stewards of all the things we have been given. So, waste and abuse of resources are against that belief. However, what Ed Begley, Jr. and I define as waste and abuse are 2 separate things (and there is definitely a spectrum between us). The effort required to do anything has to be worth the expected outcome.

My negative attitude extends to organic food because I believe it is a waste of money and resources. Reduced crop yields (that results in more land used for agriculture), increased risk of bacterial infections due to the "organic" fertilizer, and no difference in nutritional value all provided at an increased cost doesn't seem reasonable to me.

In the environmentalist case, I don't think the precautionary principle is legitimate because of the KNOWN damage that the policies proposed to solve a possible future problem cause.

Anyway, thanks for reading and commenting. I hope you will still let us come out to see your goats after reading my negative tone.

Not quite the Bradys said...

Ha ha ha ha! Oh- and ewwww, gross.

Josh & Margo said...

Yes, you guys are welcome out anytime to see the animals, we would love to hang out with you guys. I love discussing this kind of stuff with people and I like to hear your thoughts on things because you are a lot smarter than me and talk above my head sometimes. As far as the organics go (this is something Margo deals with daily with her work) it has to do more with how it is produced. I would rather eat something "organic" than something that they spray all kinds of herbicides and pesticides on. I am not sure about the increased bacterial infections with organic fertilizer because they use manure on non-organic as well. And using lots of pesticides, fungicides, antibiotics can create superbugs that we have no treatment for. I also would rather eat "organic" beef/meat that is raised naturally on grass than something that is kept in a feed lot and fed hormones. Margo says the newest studies show that over a 5-7 year span organic crop farms outproduce non-organic. I don't think organic is the answer to everything but in our opinion it is good for a lot of things. We think buying local is a bigger deal than just buying organic. Don't get me wrong, we aren't super environmentalist or all organic by any means but we do what we can.

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