Column Date 2006-04-15

Help America break the oil habit: get a dog

When an oilman is worried that America has become addicted to oil, I start to worry, too.

Thatís exactly what President Bush said recently and it started me seriously looking for new sources of energy for our home.

The first thing I learned is that our family should get a dog.

Because a company out in San Francisco, called Norcal Waste, has begun collecting dog poop from parks in town and turning it into methane gas. The methane will then be used to power gas heaters, gas stoves and to generate electricity. Itís just a pilot program now, but I suspect itís only a matter of time before every home with a dog has its own device in the basement that turns poop into power Ė the way many homes already use solar panels to generate electricity.

In Norway, theyíve located another unlikely source of energy: the good people of Oslo are helping to warm their homes by simply flushing their toilets.

Giant machines at the end of a long sewage tunnel use refrigerator technology to suck heat from the sewer water and transfer it to a network of hot water pipes connected to thousands of radiators around the city.

"We believe this is the biggest heating system in the world using raw sewage," Lars-Anders Loervik, managing director of the Oslo energy company Viken Fjernvarme, told Reuters.

The one problem theyíve found is that the sewage flow is erratic: Monday mornings between 4-6 a.m. are particularly dry. But on weekends, the flow is good.

"When people have been out to parties there's a lot of beer going into the sewer," said Oyvind Nilsen, the Oslo project manager.

All of which leads me to wonder where else we might find new sources of energy in the U.S.A.?

Well, one commodity our country is rich in is hot air, particularly around Washington, D.C. and our state capitols.

Large quantities of this abundant natural resource can also be found on Wall St., in corporate PR offices, and at the Federal Reserve (although with Alan Greenspanís departure, the quantity and quality of hot air his replacement will generate is not yet known).

Seems to me that itís no trick at all to use this rising hurricane of hot air to spin turbines, generating all the electricity the Eastern Seaboard will need, even in mid-summer. Republican or Democrat, it makes no difference Ė you can be sure the electricity will never stop flowing.

Then, of course, thereís an enormous amount of energy just waiting to be tapped at gyms and health clubs across the country.

Simply hooking up small electrical generators to those millions of stationary bikes, rowing machines and treadmills will go a long way toward cutting our dependence on foreign oil. I suspect that early-morning spinning classes alone could make California our first oil-free state.

(One last word about poop power: if you decide to buy a dog, please remember that a Great Dane will keep your home a lot warmer than a Shitsu. Itís an immutable law of science.)

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