A modest proposal: Appleosic Ethanol

It seems increasingly likely that the persistently high price of oil in the face of a historic economic downturn portends scarcity of liquid fuels in years to come, and efforts thus far to create and scale alternatives have fallen sadly short. Even today a quarter of the US maize crop is consumed to replace less than 10% of our petrol supplies, and we would be well advised to tread carefully in fermenting more, for fear of igniting further tortilla riots on our southern border, or – worse still – causing (for example) upheaval and conflagration in the Middle East. The much-touted ‘next-generation’ cellulosic ethanol is taking its time, with algae biofuels lagging still further behind. Electric vehicles are in the pipeline, but prices are projected to be painfully high. Clearly another solution is sorely needed.

Accordingly, I humbly offer the following proposal. A former president with credible experience in the matter of addiction recently diagnosed the nation with that sad affliction, and as it happens appleosic ethanol has long held a proud place in the pantheon of decadence and inebriation. For centuries distinguished gentlemen among our forefathers and hapless rogues alike gladdened their winter evenings with ethanol derived directly from the fruit of Eden, and in these challenging times a spirit with such a venerated and indeed spiritual provenance may be just what is required to keep our cherished motors running. World apple production is on the order of 60 million tonnes per annum, which when pressed can be expected to yield on the order of eleven billion gallons of fermentable cider. At an average alcohol content of six percent, this may be distilled to 675 million gallons of pure motor fuel, or sixteen million barrels. The US daily consumption of petroleum is only a trifle more than this, and the difference is all but made up by the aforementioned fermentation of maize.

Therefore, all that must be accomplished to solve our persistent and vexing energy challenges is to (1) increase the global production of apples by three hundred and sixty five times, and (2) appropriate the entire global apple crop for US use. The first task will be a matter of some effort, but from the current US production of 4.24 million tonnes per annum, at an average yield of 12 tonnes per acre, we can grow our share of the increase on about 200,000 square miles – an area scarcely larger than California. As that state is currently given over largely to the production of lettuces, cannabis, and similar non-nutritive stuffs, the conversion will be but a minor inconvenience, and a great many golf courses exist in that state with suitable infrastructure for irrigation already in place. The second task is a bit more daunting, but from long practice we are well-versed in the invasion of lands possessing raw materials necessary for transportation, and surely Messrs. Cheney and Rumsfeld could be pressed into service out of retirement in case of acute patriotic need. Once the necessary conquests have been put into effect, we will face the additional challenge of naval discipline aboard the great many tankers plying the seas with holds entirely filled with top-quality grog, but I trust that our professional servicemen can be expected to perform their duties with customary and utmost professionalism. Further, any resulting increase in shipwrecks will be of far less concern, pome-derived fuels being entirely miscible in seawater.

The evident utility of the foregoing proposal is such that I trust we will hear no more of the tiresome litany of ineffective solutions that are ever bandied about. Tell me not of increases in fleet average fuel economy, revitalization of rail networks, carbon taxation, and the charade of ‘telecommuting’, surely the largest windfall ever to land in the sweaty laps of the internet pornographers. Nay, for me let it be appleosic ethanol – for I see that a Dodge Dakota can go up to 12 miles per gallon on 85% ethanol. Why, at that rate of performance, my modest half-acre orchard could produce enough ethanol to make a one-mile round trip every single day of the year! Verily then, forward-looking citizens of good character will step up to further embrace the fateful choice our forebears made in Eden, and support appleosic ethanol – a fuel of truly biblical proportion.

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