NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

February 7, 2013

Good news, bad news

Comedians say the only way to open up such a topic is to ask, “What do you want to hear first?” I’m not so inclined. My nature is such that facts will dictate the direction news should take, but there is always that “zinger” that throws facts out the window and invites in something out of left field to deflate the facts.

A Pentagon program for the study of alternative fuels enlisted the Navy to put our Pacific fleet on a $12 million cocktail of biofuels this past summer, to prove that warships can operate on fuel made from algae or even chicken fat. That’s the good news! The bad news is that it costs $27/gallon compared with $3.50/gallon for conventional military fuel. It was back in 2000 that the Navy started to look for alternatives to petroleum. Various companies have come forward eager to “eat at the trough” of military expenditures, remembering the $7,600 coffeemaker the Pentagon authorized years ago. The House of Representatives, controlled by Republicans, has approved measures to kill the Pentagon funding on the biofuel program, while a Democratic Senate committee has vowed to preserve the program. Save your bacon fat, people, you may yet be able to cash in to keep the Navy afloat on a greasy sea.

In the language of distillery production (e.g., whiskey) the term “Angels share” is that applied to the 4 percent of the alcohol (ethanol) that escapes into the air from a barrel of aging booze. That share is causing problems for residents of the whiskey region around Louisville, Ky., home of several of the largest bourbon distilleries. It seems a black fungus, identified as baudoinia, germinates from the ethanol and blackens homes, cars, fire hydrants and stop signs, to name a few. So what’s the problem, say the distilleries. “We were here over a hundred years before the surrounding homes.” The problem has existed in Scotland for many decades; the same for Spain and Portugal, but no one has died from the unsightly fungus. Let’s drink up and await the court’s verdict! This could well turn out to be good booze, bad booze!

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