It's not about the house.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Children(ey) of the Corn

I don’t know what I was listening to yesterday – the radio, I think. Whatever it was, they were talking about alternative fuel sources, and I paid attention (sort of) because it so happens we’ve been having some fossil-fuel issues lately at our house.

They started out talking about ethanol and how it isn’t really working out the way certain Presidents had hoped, because it turns out “replenishable” and “infinite” are two completely different words. Not only can they not possibly grow enough corn to make enough fuel fast enough, but now also the corn they can produce is costing more because of the increased demand. So now anything made from corn itself (Post Toasties, Twinkies, succotash, Dick Cheney), anything made from corn oil (margarine, Twinkies, salad dressing, porn), from corn syrup (Twinkies, Budweiser, Jessica Simpson), or anything that consumes corn or is made from something that consumes corn (chickens (and therefore eggs), cows (and therefore milk), pigs (and therefore Twinkies)) – all that stuff ends up costing more as well.

These voices I was hearing went on to discuss other alternatives to the corn-based alternative, among them (and I quote): “woodchips, switchgrass, straw and corncobs.” Switchgrass? What the hell is switchgrass? Am I going to have to spend long winters in the lean-to, twisting fistfuls of hay into sticks of kindling like Laura Ingalls? Why doesn’t Dick Cheney just call Rumplestiltskin (oh, you know he knows him) and have him spin it all into black gold? Plus somebody might want to point out here that corncobs come from corn…

Next, they speculated as to garbage. There’s plenty of garbage lying around, they said, somebody ought to figure out a way to turn that garbage into fuel! I remember this conversation from the oil crisis of the 1970s; I remember the trash mountain at the dump we used to go to then as well. I immediately, in fact, got a sense-memory of the smell of that festering pile, and by the time the urge to purge subsided the voices had moved on.

They were saying something now about how growing all those plants (I assume they meant the switchgrass) would have the bonus effect of removing all the CO2 from the air that's released by burning fuel (well, I can’t swear they said it would remove “all” the CO2, but they said something about it). That’s all well and good, but if you remember your life sciences from high school, then you’ll remember that the end result of all that photosynthesis is oxygen and something called leutinizing hormone, which stimulates the pituitary gland to — oh wait, maybe that’s the menstrual cycle. I never could keep those two things straight. (Horror movie idea: Little Shop of Horrors II: The Alternative).

Anyway, this all sounds like great stuff, and I hope they figure it all out, but in the meantime Johnny and I have been trying unsuccessfully to convert our house over to “clean-burning, efficient, natural gas heat.” For all their touting of its benefits, Keyspan doesn’t seem too terribly interested in actually talking to us about this. They did want me to know, however – via recorded message when I was on hold trying to find out why their plumber failed to show – that (and I didn’t write this down, so I’m paraphrasing) “90% of the natural gas we use is from right here in America.”

Well, yes, but so is 90% of Dick Cheney. And I wouldn’t want him lurking around my basement.

1 comment:

mp said...

Ok So in Springfield, where I grew up.. we had Bondi's island where all of the trash and garbage was incinerated and created power. But now with the controls on particulate emmisions I am not sure that facility is able to function.