Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

November 4, 2012

VASICEK: Breakthroughs in energy

By Ed Vasicek
Tribune columnist

Kokomo — I was minding my own business: daydreaming and raking leaves. As I turned aside, I was nearly scared to death.

“Elmer, what are you doing here?” I shouted. “Why are you sneaking up on me like that? You know I have a stent.”

“Hee, hee, got ya!” Elmer beamed, his gold tooth gleaming. He soon returned to his usual, whiny self.

“Them Japanese, they keep changing their minds,” he complained.

“What do you mean, Elmer?” I queried. “Have I missed something in the news?”

“Yep,” Elmer replied as he unfolded a paper from his pocket. “Oh, it’s stuck. Got pancake syrup on it. Why do they call it ‘maple syrup’? It’s corn syrup with maple flavoring. Oh, here it is.” Elmer read the article from the Independent, a United Kingdom newspaper.

“With Japan’s oil and gas plants firing at full capacity, officials here say there is little chance of meeting a pledge to cut greenhouse gas emissions significantly over the next decade, a startling retreat for a country that once spearheaded an international agreement on climate change.

“The [Japanese need to] ... burn fossil fuels and maintain a steady electricity supply in the wake of the country’s abrupt turn away from nuclear power.”

“Well, Elmer, I can understand this. We had our Three Mile Island incident a few decades ago. We turned away from nuclear power, too. The Japanese had that nasty nuclear meltdown, and now they are turning to traditional – albeit polluting – fuels.”

“Albeit,” Elmer mocked. “Reading fancy stuff again? I say they are a bunch of hypocrites! Remember all that Kyoto Protocol stuff?”

“I’m not going to fight with you, Elmer,” I asserted. “On the positive side, an article I read said that here in the U.S., we now have enough wind power to provide electricity for 13 million homes. Those police cars escorting those oversized loads you’ve been seeing – those loads are wind turbine parts. So even if the Japanese have needed to retreat, the world is heading toward cleaner fuels.”

“Yeah, but electric cars aren’t catching on, Ed. Remember the grant money Obama gave to companies to develop electric car batteries? Now they’ve been downsizing. And those solar power plants – even that one near Tipton – government money, tax credits, you name it, it’s not working. We need a good, liquid fuel.”

“You’re right, Elmer. I thought electric cars would do better. Maybe the time isn’t right yet? But I did read about this guy in the U.K. who is developing gasoline from the air. The Brits call gas ‘petrol.’”

Elmer objected: “Making it out of the air? I don’t believe it!”

I leveraged a paper from my pocket. Mine had no syrup on it, but it was stained with my official watermark: coffee. I read it aloud.

“A small British company has produced the first ‘petrol from air’ using a revolutionary technology that promises to solve the energy crisis as well as helping to curb global warming by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

“... The company hopes that within two years it will build a larger, commercial-scale plant capable of producing a ton of petrol a day. It also plans to produce green aviation fuel to make airline travel more carbon-neutral.”

“This is great stuff,” I explained. “They take out CO2, mix it with oxygen removed from water. This takes electricity, but the electricity can be produced via wind power.”

“Well, in that case, ‘Viva carbon pollution!’ More fuel. Let’s pollute.”

I do not understand it, but even when Elmer is cheerful he manages to add a negative spin.

My cellphone began chiming. I chatted and then informed Elmer: “The wife just ran over a nail. I have to go.” Of course I never told Elmer that the nail was a finger nail.

Ed Vasicek is pastor of Highland Park Church and a weekly contributor to the Kokomo Tribune. Contact him at edvasicek@att.net.