Put a cob in your tank


Green comedian Jeff Wozer tries to understand biofuels, but just ends up getting more confused.

2 mins to read

Besides my top New Year’s resolution to make more fun of Gwyneth Paltrow, I also vowed to better understand biofuels. Not out of want but out of obligation after a friend slapped a “Think Biofuels” bumper sticker on my non-biofuel car.

As a person of green-leaning sensibilities I needed to either walk-the talk, as it were, or if asked about the bumper sticker, shrug it off as being ironic. I chose the former.

It was a daunting decision, for any word that begins with “bio” – bioastronautics, biochemistry, biography on Justin Bieber – generally gets prejudged as beyond my comprehension. I’m to science as North Korea is to tourism. I appreciate it. I’m in awe of it. But I lack the brain capacity to understand it. While scientists are landing stuff on meteors 310 million miles away, I’m still trying to understand how spiders can climb walls and ceilings but can’t escape bathtubs.

And adding to my confusion is the all-inclusive nature of biofuels. Unlike fossil fuels, which are limited to oil, natural gas, and coal, biofuels seemingly encompass every animate and inanimate object in the world. There’s a glibness about it. Every day a new source is added to the biofuel list. One day it’s corn. The next day it’s liposuction fat. The next it’s algae. Each one is more brain-buckling than the next, bordering on hocus pocus science, making it difficult for the public to embrace biofuels as a credible alternative.

Out of all the biofuels, corn-based ethanol has established itself as the planet’s most legitimate alternative energy source. Many worldwide gas stations offer E10 blends (gasoline with 10% ethanol). The United States, in 2014 alone, produced 13 billion gallons of it. To some, this is no surprise. Car manufacturing founder Henry Ford championed ethanol back in 1908 as the “fuel of the future”.

Yet the idea of corn someday overtaking oil as the world’s chief energy source staggers all logic. We’re talking food here. How can deliciousness be converted into car fuel? Life as we know it would forever change.

CNN and the BBC would cover horrible stories of tanker ships running aground and fouling our oceans with cream of corn spills, turning pristine shorelines into the world’s largest side dishes.

The post-apocalyptic Mad Max movie franchise would feature Mel Gibson trying to escape a roving band of crazed gang members while driving a truck full of corn niblets.

Consumers across the planet would pressure their respective governments to mandate laws requiring filling stations to label their pumps if the ethanol being dispensed is made with genetically modified corn.

Geopolitical oil interests would wane in favor of geopolitical corn interests. Argentina, the world’s 3rd largest corn producer, second only to the United States and China, would replace the Middle East as the planet’s new tug-of-war hotspot. Inevitable military conflicts would erupt, prompting anti-war protestors to march on Washington D.C. waving angry signs that read “No Blood for Corn on the Cob.”

Along this same thought, inevitable droughts would cause corn-production concerns in Washington. Under pressure to keep America independent of foreign corn, the White House would propose opening parts of Yellowstone National Park to farming, igniting the wrath of environmental groups. With tensions high, the National Guard would  be called in to prevent Greenpeace members from chaining themselves to John Deere farm tractors.

Candy corn packaging would require the disclaimer “Not intended for car fuel.”

And parents would admonish finicky children at the dinner table to finish the corn on their plates using the logic, “There are cars in Africa with empty gas tanks.”

Wow. After thinking about biofuels Gwyneth Paltrow doesn’t seem so weird. I may now have to consciously refrain from making fun of her conscious uncoupling.

Jeff’s humor articles have appeared in more than 35 publications, including The Explorers Journal, Cabin Life Magazine, and ESPN’s Active.com. When not writing, he spends his time sitting on his cabin deck dressed in tattered shorts and a thick Patagonia fleece jacket brooding about nothing in particular.

Please share your experiences and views in the comment section.

Follow Jeff on Twitter

PHOTO CREDIT: Angela Sevin from flickr

Previous articleBeyond Fracking; The Case for Renewables Strengthens
Next article5 Sustainable Brands Making a Difference
Green comedian Jeff Wozer’s humour articles have appeared in more than 35 publications. Jeff has performed his stand-up on some of comedy’s biggest stages – Red Rocks, Vegas Strip and the Great American Comedy festival. When not writing or performing, he spends his time sitting on the deck of his cabin high in the Colorado mountains dressed in tattered shorts and a thick Patagonia fleece jacket brooding about nothing in particular.