Cooking on Bananas

As anyone who has trawled the archives of this site, or been reading it long enough, will know, I'm a bit of a vocalist when it comes of the western world's addiction to oil. With oil prices seemingly hitting new highs everyday, surely now the west must wake up to fact that we have built our economic foundations on the sand and not on the rock. Our reliance on oil makes our economies very fragile, and world demand is only going to increase (this is, incidently, possibly a reason for Bush starting the Iraq war, it may well have been for the oil, but economic benefit may not have been the primary motive, the world is going to need all the oil it can get soon, and Iraq has plenty it wasn't able to make full use of, so the US government may have been acting in such a way to try and secure at least a temporary respite from impending economic meltdown -- or they may have been thinking 'damn them gas prices is high, my hummer is costing a lot to run, better get in Iraq and secure more oil, get these prices down, y'all.'), it's a weak link that makes us act unrationally and without the necessary neutrality global politics requires.

With that in mind, I was obviously happy to hear that Australian engineers have created electricity by using methane from decomposing bananas and UK scientists have developed a way to extract hydrogen from sunflower oil. Using decomposing organic material to produce methane to fuel powerstations isn't a new idea, but making use of bananas that would otherwise simply go to waste is a fantastic way to recycle and produce power.

For a slightly less scientific method, I like Dan Cederholm's idea about having a hand crank in every home that you legally had to crank for say 5 mins a day, or, as he also suggests, hooking up gyms to the grid (I'm sure gyms would get in on the act if they were getting money off their bill!). Not much effort (and we could use a little more excercise), but multiply that by 60 million people and that must add up to a significant amount (say we only produce 10 watts each, that's 600 megawatts in all).

On a similar note, and I haven't seen the series yet, but check out Eco Trekker, where 'Shaun is attempting to cross 30 states using 12 cool [alternative] fuel sources... . Anyone fancy a corn whiskey-powered BMW Z3?'

Change is afoot, but it can't come fast enough as far as I'm concerned, and all of our governments need to wake up to this fact and get helping these people; provide subsides, tax relief, incentives, perhaps a prize like the Ansari X-Prize but for renewable fuels.


  1. Kevin

    Well, I'm definitely on your side of things when it comes to the simple (and increasingly obvious fact) that we need to find alternative sources of fuel.... However, I can't say that I have much hope for the American government to come around anytime soon. See, here in the US the energy companies (petroleum industry in particular) are the largest donators to the presidential campaigns. Hence, the presidents are going to make sure and not do anything to decrease the oil companies' revenues, lest their campaign contributions go down. The Bush administration has even gone so far as to more or less castrate the EPA (via rabid censorship of their reports) to such a degree that they're denying CO2 is a greenhouse gas and even that global warming really exists. Bush also pased a new tax law that stated that a small business that purchases a vehicle over 3 tons (6000 lbs) can have the purchase price as a tax write-off. Alas, something needs to be done... however, I lack the faith to believe that it will happen anytime soon.

  2. Lee (author)

    Thanks for the comments, Kevin. I agree that I think it's unlikely the US will lead the way on this. Gasoline is too cheap and too important for the consumer inaddition to the large contributions, it'd be political suicide. Europe and Japan have always led the way with economic vehicles. Certainly in the UK there would be questions asked if large donations were coming from the oil companies, so perhaps we're less prone. The UK has a disadvantage in that we are a fairly large oil producer, but it's not the stuff you use to make petrol/diesel.

    The good news is (I've heard -- not read the report yet) that Blair was fairly stern when talking about the environment yesterday and that they may finally be making a move on it.

    I also found this story about micro power. Kind of a more high tech approach to the hand crank, lots of little power plants rather than 5 or 6 large ones, good idea.

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