Thursday, July 5, 2007

I Am Ethanol

What a brave new world we live in in which we plant corn with a tractor, fertilize it with petrochemicals so that this monocrop can make it, harvest it by burning more fuel, transport it to a distillery so that it can be fermented with more petroleum-derived energy, ship it to a gas station where it can be mixed with some more oil and make ethanol, and then pour it into a car so that 90+% of the energy can go to move the vehicle and less than 10% go to moving the person inside (based on a comparison of the weight of the car to the weight of the person inside it).

So here is my own version of ethanol. I eat food grown in the ground. Quite a bit of the vegetable matter I've been eating this summer I grow in my own garden. Then I directly use the energy from those crops to power my body so I can turn my pedals and ride my bicycle to get around.

I can grow the food in my graden without petrochemical fertilizers because I make compost from my own food waste, and because I get down on my knees to weed. I can ferment the vegetables inside my own body and break them down in my own stomach so I don't need a smelly huge ethanol plant to do that part. My stomach wall takes in the energy of the food and sends it to my muscles so they can turn the pedals of my bicycle. I don't need a heavy contraption of steel and plastic (more petrochemicals) to burn the fermented liquid into energy for transportation. And almost all the energy I create with my food-stomach-muscles goes to actually moving me. Just a little bit of the energy goes into moving the machine - my bicycle. My bike weighs quite a bit less than I do. Cars weigh quite a bit more than bicycles, and it takes so much energy to move a car that the person gets moved by just a small percentage of that ethanol energy.

So I think I do the enthanol thing a lot more efficiently than the state-subsidized ethanol industry does.

And it seems to me that we are pretty sad car addicts if we are so interested in moving cars around that we grow food to feed to them. We are spending valuable food on movement rather than on keeping people and other animals alive. That seems pretty crazy to me.