Thursday, May 9, 2013

A Fun Analogy to Connect Our Problems with Energy and Obesity

Several months ago, I was trying to explain to someone why clean coal was an oxymoron and that, even if it were possible, it would be a waste of money.  In my habit of analogizing, I ended up developing a number of connections between the US’s problems with energy and food (that other form of energy).

"So, I have an excellent idea for how to solve the obesity epidemic.  What we should do is pay scientists—or the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, whichever—tons of money so that they can chemically extract the fat out of hamburgers.  Right?  People eat lots of hamburgers; they don't want fresh produce.  So we should make the hamburgers better for them by blowing ridiculous sums of money on this scheme to engineer fat-removal.  Now, we certainly won't change the ways that we raise the cows; that, of course, need not enter the picture.  The same can be said for the idea that maybe, just maybe, instead of eating these fat-removed hamburgers, people would be better off eating fresh produce, and we should spend our money on getting fresh produce available.  Madness, I tell you!  If we don't invent chemically-engineered fat-free hamburgers, the Chinese will do it before us.  They've certainly increased their beef consumption lately."

However, after reading an article about natural gas later that day, I realized that my analogy could go further.

The trio of fossil fuels (coal, oil, and gas) can be paired with the trio damaging the American diet:  fat, sugar, and salt.  Clearly, we've already established the coal-fat connection.  Sugar would be the equivalent of oil.  Sugar is in just about everything that we eat, and the only way to avoid it would be to avoid purchasing any item that has been remotely processed.  The US has also invaded other countries or at least threatened their sovereignty because of its sweet tooth just as it has for its oil fix.  Because of how big of a sweet tooth we have, we've also been producing a good amount of sugar here at home, in the form of high fructose corn syrup, whose producers the government lavishes with subsidies despite that such large quantities of GMO corn will do to the land.

Salt, then, would be natural gas.  People like to say that natural gas is "clean burning," and salt has no calories, right?  You want to lose weight—start replacing fat and sugar in your diet with salt!  No calories—amazing!  Let's dump salt on all our food so that we won't need to grease it up or sweeten it.  Now, despite the occasional studies that try to prove otherwise, we all know that salt is still bad for your heart, and no person in his or her right mind would tell you that salt, salt, and MORE SALT is the solution to health problems and the way to get in shape.

Aspartame would be ethanol.  It's just like sugar, but it's better for you, right?  I'd guess again because loading up your diet on aspartame still isn't healthy.  You're fooling yourself.  Something like stevia could represent other biofuels, the ones that are, in all honesty, better for you; stevia isn't chemicalized as much as aspartame.  But, at the end of the day, you are still sweetening your diet.  It could help, but it's still not fresh produce.

Coffee would be nuclear power.  "I've got the perfect solution for your diet problem.  CAFFEINATE, CAFFEINATE, CAFFEINATE."  Right?  Caffeine has no calories and can help you lose weight.  (Coffee and cigarettes, the diet of the stars!)  Granted, though, it makes you thirsty, and if you drink too much, you might explode.

All the while, the idea of investing money in bringing produce to more communities—both healthful food and a more decentralized system*—falls by the wayside and gets thrown into the culture wars.

*You certainly can't aren't going to have your own personal oil rig or coal mine in your backyard--nor your own cattle range or corn field.  However, you can have a solar panel on your roof and a garden in your backyard, and decentralization seems to be the sustainable future for both food and fuel.

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