Puddle Jumpers

Enjoying life, off the hamster wheel

Shit Sequestration

So, in my journeys through the Internet, reading about alternative fuels and hydrogen, I turned my attention towards shit sequestration, aka, biofuel.

There are numerous articles on it, and I learned that in the developing world, it is used as an alternative to burning biomass, which is used to fuel cook-stoves indoors. With biofuel, the exhaust is cleaner and poses fewer health problems for women and children than biomass does. As you may already know, lung cancer rates are extremely high in women and children in the developing world, which is linked to the carcinogens in the smoke from burning biomass for food production. Please watch this very interesting TED video of Amy Smith’s talk on making more efficient biomass ‘briquettes’ TED Talks.

Amy Smith’s approach is definitely cheap to produce, and much cleaner burning than what is currently being used in the third world. But there is an alternative – in the production of biofuel. It seems pretty simple: According to Wikipedia, waste from livestock and humans is placed in a containment tank, the anaerobic bacteria in the waste produces methane gas, and the gas is collected and piped into the stove to fuel it. The cost is low to build a biofuel tank (for our standards), and it will work with little maintenance for 10 – 15 years Wikipedia/Biogas.

Unfortunately, burning methane produces carbon dioxide. I don’t know if it is more or less than burning fossil fuels. What I do know is that, based on the current catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico, Telegraph.UK, collecting shit and burning the methane from it seems like a better way to produce fuel than drilling in the ocean, or on land for that matter. Or even extracting oil from tar sands. Animals and humans produce a lot of waste, and it seems like, with relatively simple technology, we can feed our fuel-hungry selves with a renewable source. And we can even produce electricity out of it. Go figure.

Terasen Gas in BC is exploring biofuel options Terasen Gas. Although I hate huge farms (5800 head of cattle? Seriously gross), the efficiency of the systems in the following article is interesting Farm Credit Canada.

All this has got me thinking about human waste, but most of all, the potential fuel source that could be collected on… cruise ships! Think about it! They are like small floating cities. The largest, the Oasis of the Seas, carries 5,400 passengers. That’s like hitting the shit pay-load! Imagine if every port that the Oasis of the Seas stopped at had a pumping station that siphoned the waste out of the ship and into a biomass tank, eventually converting it into fuel for electricity and gas. 5400 passengers eating their way to happy oblivion onboard, gleefully pooping out their very expensive meals, freely giving of themselves to fuel the regions they visit. Better yet, what if this same system was redirected BACK into the ship, and used to shuttle these thousands of passengers back and forth around the world, leaving a smaller imprint than they are currently leaving? The additional benefit would be less polluting out in the middle of the ocean, in International Waters, where ships are permitted to dump their effluent.

Mom used to call cruise ships “floating bajs boxes” (‘bajs’ means ‘poo’ in Swedish). I wish she was alive so we could discuss this potential benefit of the floating bajs boxes, as they really make for very easy shit sequestration and biofuel production.

Of course, this sort of idea would never fly, because our petroleum economy has us hamstrung, and the corporations and people who benefit from our current system will do whatever they can to keep it as it is. And governments are lobbied by the most powerful and the status quo will persist.

But a gal can dream, can’t she?

And speaking of oceans, plastic and shit, watch this TED talk, and the next time you’re thirsty and you want to buy a bottle of water, think again, and instead, go to the bathroom or the nearest water fountain, and take a long, cool, refreshing drink from the tap. Our future depends on it. TED Capt. Charles Moore on the seas of plastic


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This entry was posted on May 28, 2010 by in Environment and tagged , , , , .

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