Friday, May 02, 2008

Thinking Green? Call Me Ishmael.

     So I'm at work watching Bloomberg TV, and from a lot of careful observation I noticed that all of the large, integrated oil companies continued to profit obscenely over the course of the previous fiscal quarter. Royal Dutch Shell's profits are up 25%. BP's are up a whopping 63%. ExxonMobil raked in nearly $11 billion, and Chevron made $5.17 billion. Seeing as how Earth Day was a couple of weeks ago and I didn't do a damn thing to alleviate any of the guilt tree-huggers tell me I ought to be feeling, my first thought was the obvious one, i.e."How do I get into this racket?" The oil racket, that is; the environmental doom-and-gloom guilt-tripping racket is an entirely different matter. I did a little research and found out that had I invested my hamster money into some oil wells instead of the trout farm, by now I'd be swimming in more money than Scrooge McDuck. Unfortunately, at that time oil was trading at about $18-$20/bbl and nobody was investing in exploration or production, so the fur-bearing trout looked like a better bet. Anyway, the point I suppose I'm trying to make is that at this point I don't have the resources to invest in oil, so my dreams of monetary avarice were once again dashed to little itty-bitty pieces upon the sharp, painful rocks of economic reality. Now, by this point I'm sure you're wondering what this possibly has to do with thinking green, but please bear with me. In my experience I've found is useful to explain my little train-wrecks of thought, if only to avoid people asking me stupid questions like "How could you come to such an insane conclusion?" or "Did you take lessons to become this crazy, or were you just hatched that way?" The answer, of course, is that I'm not completely insane; I still have a few classes left.

     Anyway, back to the topic at hand: thinking green. Greenbacks, that is; that should be pretty obvious by now. Some time after completing my fateful research I was again watching TV and was assaulted one of BP's entries for most obnoxious commercials ever. In an effort to showcase their sincere desire to move Beyond Petroleum, they apparently hit upon the quite brilliant idea of wandering the streets with a camera and microphone, interviewing anyone who would consent and then compiling the stupidest responses for use in their commercials. The ad in question involves solar power, with a few people offering such brilliant insights as "What ever happened to solar?" and "Solar works!" Then they focus in on a man sitting in a booth in a restaurant with this look on his face like he's attempting to castrate himself with a butter knife and is using the table salt as an antiseptic. By this point I've usually turned the sound off, so I have no idea what he has to say about solar power, and he looks so creepy that I can't even look at the TV while he's on it, so I can't even read the closed-caption feed. The thing that really bothers me about these commercials, and the alternative energy movement as a whole, is that this stuff just doesn't work very well. Sure, solar works, and so does wind; I'm not denying that. I just don't see them as viable alternatives. Both are god-awful expensive and not entirely reliable. Solar photovoltaic cells cost a bloody fortune as an initial investment and obviously only work when the sun's up; in order for you to have power at night you'd need either a connection to an external power grid or a large bank of storage batteries, which costs even more money. And while wind turbines are becoming both cheaper and more powerful, they generally only work well in winds ranging from 5-25mph and the damn things have been falling down in heavy winds pretty much anywhere they've been erected (see video here and here). Wind turbines also seem to be particularly deadly to birds and bats. And don't even get me started on ethanol as fuel; aside from the obvious absurdity of burning our food, one gallon of the stuff only contains about two-thirds the BTUs of a gallon of gasoline. That simple comparison doesn't even take into account all the BTUs expended in the diesel fuel that has to be burnt to grow the corn, harvest it, truck it to a distillery, distill the alcohol, and finally ship the ethanol to the point of sale. How again is this energy efficient?
     But I digress: back to the TV. Yeah, I know I watch too much, but when I want your opinion I'll give it to you. Anyway, at some point after Mr. Neuteronomy along comes another guy asking me if I wanted to add something exciting to my dinner table. This was right after an ad for the latest installment in the Girls Gone Wild franchise, so I asked myself "Self, what could possibly be more exciting on my dinner table than the bared mammary glands of nubile twenty-somethings?" The answer, of course, was bison. Bison steaks, to be precise. Now, not knowing what bison was and why I'd want to a steak thereof, I did some research on these mythical creatures and learned the following fun facts:
  1. Bison are also known as "Buffalo", which is, as far as I can tell, now a city in upstate New York.
  2. I suppose that's kinda like how Charles de Gaulle, former General and later President of France, is now an airport.
  3. Despite popular myth, they don't have wings.
  4. The buffalo, not airports.
  5. Categorically-wise, they're in the same family as cows.
  6. Much like cows, God saw fit to comprise them mostly of meat.
  7. There used to be a whole helluva lot of 'em roaming the Middle East.
  8. Or the Mid-west.
  9. Or maybe Middle Earth.
  10. I wasn't paying a whole lot of attention.
At any rate, despite the fact that the earth used to be lousy with 'em, bison are now in such limited supply that you can get away with charging hundreds of dollars per pound for their meat. Now, you're probably thinking that this would be a perfect scam great way for me to make money. If you are, you're wrong, and here's why: somebody already beat me to it. If there's somebody else out there doing it, then I'll have to compete with them and won't be able to charge the sort of monopolistic prices necessary to make me filthy-stinking rich in the timeframe I prefer (Before the authorities catch up with me). So buffalo ranching is a non-starter. However, it was then that the idea hit me. I knew of another large, lumbering beast which had nearly been eradicated, one way bigger than a lousy wild cow. One which was for centuries used as a source of food, fuel and industrial lubricants the world over. One the raising of which wouldn't take up vaulable real estate which could be used for housing or golf courses. Or go-cart racing. I'd found the perfect renewable resource, and nobody else has thought of it. And since you can probably already see the illustrative picture below, you ought to know what it is.

The Bounty of the Sea

     That's right: whale oil. Why whale oil, you ask? It's simple, really: whale ranching will solve a great number of our current problems. Unlike any other form of alternative energy, whaling and whale oil are proven technologies. We know how to catch the buggers, we know how to render their blubber into precious oil, and it was with 19th century technology that we hunted them to near extinction. With today's advanced technology we ought to be able to kill them by the hundreds of thousands per year . . . maybe even millions! And there's no other renewable resource out there which givs us both food and fuel. With corn, sugar beets or sugar cane you either eat it or turn it into hooch. And with the hooch you either go blind drinking it or burn it as fuel, but either way you can't do both. Whales, however, yield both tasty meat and valuable oil, which makes me wonder why nobody's thought of this before. So I did me a little research and a little thinking and came up with the following plan.

Step one: Supertanker   Whales live primarily in the ocean, which is great for ranching purposes. The ocean's pretty big, which means there's lots of space for lots of whales. It also doesn't take up any land area, which as I mentioned above leaves room for go-cart tracks and miniature golf courses, which'll keep the kids happy. And because horses, the traditional work-horse of the ranching world, can't swim very well (at least as far as I know), I hit upon the modern supertanker as the perfect whaling platform. With some of them displacing upwards of 500,000 tons, they're pretty honkin' big, which is great considering the size of both whales and the ocean. Being so huge, I can't see any reason why the entire whale-ranching process can't be vertically integrated on board, so I'll need to buy me a few. I wonder what they cost . . . ?

Step two: Whaleifornication   One fun fact about whales I encountered in my research is that they don't breed too fast. Reproductive maturity can take anywhere from seven to ten years to develop and most females only ever give birth to one calf which must then be nursed for a year or more. This sucks. Fortunately, the human race has become quite expert in the act of reproduction, so helping whales pick up the pace shouldn't be too much of a problem. First we'll have to crack the whalesong code so we'll be able to communicate with them. I'm pretty sure there's a few people somewhere working on this problem, so hopefully I'll just have to offer them not-too-much more money to come work for me. Second, once that's solved, one section of each of my tankers will be transformed into dedicated whale-husbandry laboratories, mainly by building a moon pool large enough to hold a whale and stocking some very large syringes. Third, Wednesdays will be dedicated to attracting females. This will be primarily accomplished by broadcasting advertisements for buy-one-get-one-free sales in whalesong. It doesn't matter what is being sold because it's a well known fact that women will buy anything, regardless of cost, need or time consumed, so long as they think they're saving money. And if they're getting something for free, God help you if you get in their way. Anyway, when they surface in the moon pool we'll fire a syringe at them and pump 'em full of fertility drugs in the hope of getting them to bear at least two kids at a time. Last, but not least, Thursdays and Saturdays will be dedicated to the males. Since most men know instinctively that it's mathematically and fiscally impossible to save money by buying something you don't need, much less two of them, I'll be enlisting the assistance of America's vast porn industry to create a series of Sows Gone Wild audiotapes which will be sure to get their attention. Once on board they'll be force-fed large doses of Viagra until the ship itself begins to look attractive, and then released to prey upon the unsuspecting and highly hormonal females. I mean, whales are mammals, humans are mammals, and Viagra works on humans, so it oughta work on whales, right?

Step three: Keep them dogies movin'; Whalehide!   With the breeding problem solved, next I'll need to keep track of my herds. Branding will likely be impractical, if only because I don't want to find out what burnt whale flesh smells like. Besides, it's not like anyone could see the brands when they're underwater, anyway. And I'm not going to have a fleet of ships wandering the seven seas waiting for some old salt to shout "Thar she blows!" So GPS trackers will be the best way to go. They could be embedded in a fin or stapled to a snout or whatever, so long as they don't fall off.

Step four: McPhotoplankton's   Whales like to eat. Baleen whales spend most of their time, as far as I know, sucking up as much plankton as they can find. Photoplankton blooms have become a problem of late, caused mostly by massive fertilizer runoff from farms. So more whales eating more plankton means we can continue farming the living hell out of the land and benefit from all the tasty whale meat we'll end up with. And all the extra blubber will be great, too. In the event that we can't feed enough whales this way the tankers can always grow plankton on board and then just dump the stuff right into the water like so many farm hands slopping so many hogs. Either way, everybody wins!

Step five: The SS Abattoir   When they're ripe, the real fun'll begin! Since they'll all be tagged, it will be an easy matter to find 'em, spear 'em, and haul 'em up through the moon pool and into the bowels of the ship for butchering. The blubber could be rendered into biodeisel on board, offloaded onto smaller tankers and then delivered around the world, saving the supertanker the necessity of pulling into port to discharge its cargo. The prime cuts of meat could easily be vacuum-packaged and similarly offloaded onto cargo vessels while underway. And the leftovers could be ground into a fine pulp, compressed into inedible powerbar-like lumps and then sold to guilt-ridden western governments to be air-dropped into third world countries, thus feeding the poor urchins. Ain't nothin' like a nice Whalebar® to fill your tummy!

     So, now that you see the obvious merits of my plan, all I need is money. Supertankers ain't cheap, and neither is the extravagant lifestyle I became quickly accustomed to while I was breeding my Combat Hamsters®. If everybody in the G8 sent me ten bucks, I'd have enough seed money to disappear forever attract some venture capital and line up some nice, juicy loans. If you care about hungry people, whales and/or the environment, then you need to send money RIGHT NOW via PayPal to If everybody chips in, in a few short years we'll have a world full of well-fed people, an ocean literally teeming with whales, and gas stations overflowing with cheap, renewable biofuel. And who wouldn't want that?