Einstein spent a good deal of his waning years envisioning a “Unified Field Theory” or the “Theory of Everything” that could bridge the sizeable gap between his theory of relativity and quantum mechanics, in other words…stuff that’s really really big and stuff that’s really really small. I look for unified field theories in lots of places, under the couch, behind the refrigerator and so on. Ok…no, I don’t. But I do look for linkages between disparate things all the time. I guess it’s a little bit of the scientist in me and a little bit of irrationality that creeps up every so often. I’m always weary when I do it because I know that trying to draw linkages when there are none is pretty dangerous territory. Fitting a theory to a preconceived notion is tenuous at best and it usually relies on the false idea that correlation implies causation (see figure below). That not withstanding, I have a new unified field theory for solving many of our nations current problems in one fell swoop.
So here is my thinking on the matter. We have an obesity problem in this country in which 63% of our population is overweight. That’s more than 189,000,000 overweight people. Wow! So lets just consider if those people decided that they were going to lose some weight. Lets start them off with a reasonable reduction in caloric intake of 500 calories/day. Since these are food calories they are actually kilocalories but I will try and keep my units consistent here. So those people are consuming an excess of energy each and every day that they wastefully turn into fat. Lets say they instead of eating those 500 calories they “donate” them to a co-generation plant to make electricity, methane, and heat. Those calories are equivalent to 370 BILLION B.T.U.s of energy that is being wasted. Or if you prefer, the equivalent of 3,286,956 gallons of gasoline per DAY. So that’s only the equivalent of about 1% of the US daily consumption. But lets just say that we take this hybrid car thing seriously and that we are able to, on average, increase our efficiencies by a meager 10% over traditional cars. We also saw that people drove on average 2% less when the price of gas was high. If we can convince people that these are habits they should continue regardless of price lets see where we get. Put together we see a net reduction in around 45 million gallons / day or about 12%. Lets go on to say that since we are running super efficient co-generation plants that take our waste and turn it into energy that we can use this to create steam to heat our homes and offices (it already happens in new York city). I imagine a co-op system where some initial capital investment is paid off through “free” heat to members in exchange for their organic waste products. We could further cut oil consumption that we would have used for heating homes. Plus…this is environmentally friendly and carbon neutral (and way better than putting the trash in landfills). We gain the energy, we also produce valuable nutrient rich fertilizer which can be used on fields and doesn’t take the energy that we would have used to produce the environmentally damaging chemicals. Lets couple this with some new nuclear reactors thrown in that could also be converted to a co-generation set-up so we don’t waste that extra heat. Conservatively lets cut our oil usage by another 10% (less oil to heat homes that are now being warmed by steam and also less oil powered electrical plants which were replaced by nuclear). Now we have cut our energy usage by close to 25% and we have hopefully cut our waistlines too. But the benefits don’t stop there. Because of the decrease in obesity our health care costs go down. Insurance premiums shrink, waiting times for surgery go down because nobody needs a gastric bypass anymore and we all benefit from good clean living. Ah…if only this was at all feasible…what would be the cost of such overhauls? Would it be less than the 1 trillion dollars in bailout cash already dealt out. I think it probably would. Patrick OUT!!!