Archive for December, 2007

A Modest Proposal (with apologies to Jonathan Swift)

Bill Hudgins, noted truck writer and wit, offers this blog entry on biofuels.

Friday, December 28, 2007

In August 2004, I penned a column humorously suggesting that biodiesel should be made with various kinds of aromas, since the sense of smell is a powerful one that can affect mood and attitude.

Now there is news that makes me hope they won’t take my automotive aromatherapy idea too far. In Canada, scientists have proposed turning used diapers into synthetic fuel.

On the face of it, so to speak, the diaper proposal makes sense, and appears to work much as do other suggestions for sources of biodiesel. You take the organic material – no pun intended here; I mean stuff made of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen – heat it up without any air until it starts to break down into those elements, and then refine it. They crack crude petroleum like that, so why not crude Pampers?

And there is no lack of raw material. I’ve seen estimates that Americans alone go through around 18 billion disposable diapers a year. And as we boomers get older, that number is likely to climb. Heck, just collecting the used diapers from all the Wal-Mart parking lots would probably yield a million barrels of fuel a year.

Folks, we’re talking a “Dependsable” source of energy, and a second use of petroleum and wood products. (I wonder if the Vaseline on those diapers would create an octane boost?) While one can think of other castoffs that could also be turned into motor vehicle fuel, apparently there can be problems with, uh, contaminants, if you can believe that.

“If we try to take municipal waste and run it through a system like this, it would be too variable and you’d get all sorts of nasty surprises you’d have to deal with,” one of the researchers said. So liquefying plastic bags and other such materials is probably not going to happen right away.

But with hospitals all around Montreal, there is a continuous supply of dirty nappies. The idea might catch on among young parents concerned about greenness (environmentally, that is). A collection system has been proposed (somehow the image of the peasant collecting bodies in “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” comes to mind: “Bring out yer dirties!” “Eh, I’m not full yet!”). As one of the researchers was quoted as saying: “One of the beauties of the diaper is that it is going to be a very consistent input.”

No kidding.

Meanwhile, a bloke in New Zealand is preparing to try to take an experimental craft around the world using alternative fuels, including some biofuel made from his own body fat, collected by liposuction.

Pete Bethune and two pals collectively rendered up enough lovehandles and beer belly to make about 7 liters of biofuel. In many nations whose citizens are developing ever larger waistlines, this rather drastic commitment to the environment might be underwritten as a public health measure. And if the trend toward superhuge portions continues, it could certainly be a renewable resource, as well.

For that matter, instead of converting us all to Soylent Green, maybe we should all be converted into biofuel.


This makes me wonder if other bodily wastes could be converted, too. What about the placenta after childbirth? Some cultures eat them. Why not make fuel for Mom’s SUV? Stem cells from embryos? Use them for fuel to heat the White House. But, Bill, if we are converted to biofuel, promise me that I’ll be burned in a Hybrid.

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Go Wildcats, but Pick Up Your Trash


The Kentucky Wildcats are playing in the Music City Bowl this afternoon. Yesterday, I found this car magnet on the side of the road. Possibly a disgruntled basketball fan ripped it off his car.

I’m pulling for the Wildcats (sorry, JRob) to continue the SEC winning streak in bowl games.

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Sorry, Charlie, You Forgot Something


On September 11, 2007, Nashville had a run-off election for mayor and city council members. The candidates had three weeks (winners and losers) to pick up their campaign signs. I photographed this sign for Charlie Tygard, who ran successfully for council-at-large, today (12/30/07). According to Charlie’s council page, he is a member of Recycle Nashville.

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Tie a Bow Around Planet Earth

Here’s an interesting, but sad, fact about holiday trash from The Daily News:

According to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, 38,000 miles of ribbon is thrown in the trash each year — enough to tie a bow around the planet.

Please reuse bows. I used to laugh at my mother for doing just that.

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A Shameful Sight

Although this blog is about trashing the earth, we observed a sad scene today at Centennial Medical Center. We were in the family room while a member was undergoing open heart surgery. Many others were in the room, too. Two security guards came in and questioned a man who was there to visit his niece, who needs a liver transplant. The man, who was being interrogated, was African American, dressed in pants splatted with paint, drinking coffee and was sitting quietly alone. He had been on his way to work as a painter, when he got the call about his relative.

We were shocked by what we observed. He was there as a caring uncle, but was treated as a vagrant. We hope never to observe this again.

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Peace on Earth


Throughout the year, we’ve shown how ugly the world can be. These are images of the beauty of the earth we experienced in 2007: snow in Vermont, sunset on Mobile Bay, hiking in lower Alabama, Radnor Lake in November and the Boone Trace Greenway in December.

PlanetTrash wishes earth and all earthlings peace, joy, love and respect of each other. Merry Christmas!

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Out of the Car, Into the Drain, Into the Stream and Into Your Water


As we sat at a stoplight earlier today, I noticed a storm drain clogged with plastic and aluminum cola cans, paper, styrofoam and lots of cigarette butts. Wastes shouldn’t go into storm drains because the drains empty into rivers where we eventually get our water. As I blog, I’m sipping hot tea, made with tap water that was also put through a Brita filter. I hope that the tars from the cigarette butts have been removed. They are poisonous.

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