Biodiesel — The Real Flower Power

I like to look out the window when I drive. This can slow me down. So it was without surprise when, recently, I was cut off by a careening two-story SUV. It was driven by a young man with his cell phone pressed to his ear. He was gracious enough to take time out of his busy schedule to flip me his middle finger. The last thing I saw of his truck was his bumper sticker, which read “Biodiesel — The Real Flower Power.”

The SUV got me to thinking. How could such a large vehicle, driven so recklessly, be doing anything good for the environment? I don’t know much about science. But my experience with grocery carts leads me to the conclusion that to get heavy things moving you need “uumph.” I’m guessing the same is true with cars. I would also guess that for any specific car, you probably need the same amount of “uumph,” regardless of whether the “uumph” comes from gas, electricity, or some other place.

Later the same day, I read in the New York Times that a bio-fuel plant in Alabama is polluting a nearby river, called the Black Warrior River. It seems that oil and grease is left over after making biodiesel fuel. The substance, which is like salad dressing, is being dumped into the local river. Apparently this is just too much of a good thing and the local fish and other wildlife are falling prey to death by dressing.

Which leads me back to “uumph.” It seems to me that for whatever we do, we’re going to use some kind of “uumph.” “Uumph,” in turn will leave an environmental footprint. So changing the source of the “uumph” doesn’t get rid of the environmental footprint, it just leaves the footprint in a different place. It is sort of like trying to decide whether you want to track mud in the front door or in the back door.

So I suspect the SUV driver is no greener for burning biodiesel. He is still using the same amount of “uumph.” Instead of sucking oil out of a pipe in Alaska, however, the driver’s choice of “uumph” is killing fish in Alabama.

I thought this was a real original thought. Just to check myself, I Googled it. Son of a gun. Wouldn’t you know. Someone thought up the same thing almost a generation ago.

Just goes to show. No thing in this world like an original idea.


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