I spent 19 years in the Canadian Navy, travelling the world and visiting a lot of foreign lands. In those 19 years I was “brain-washed,” “drilled,” and “taught” to be more efficient, faster, and more knowledgeable. So I started to examine everything in my life and tried to make it “more efficient.”
So you might wonder, “What the heck does this have to do with a renewable future?”
I spent most of my career on a ship, a huge ship. Travelling the world. I spent most of that phase of my life wondering, “How much fuel does this boat use?” After all, you have to wonder how much the public is paying for a fuel bill for a ship that carries 218 people, 2 helicopters, and is travelling everywhere.
Consider the energy expended to send that ship around the world. Well, there are a lot of ships transporting a lot of heavy stuff all over the world. It takes a lot of money to pay for that fuel. And It took a lot of money to generate that fuel.
So where I am going with this? Well, we use our cars, ships and planes. We expend energy and resources, ruining the environment like there’s no tomorrow in the process. Governments spend money as if these resources are unlimited, but they don’t run a business, they don’t check “profit and losses” and to boot they contribute to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. (And then they deny it later.)
Consider this fact: It takes a whole lot of money, energy, equipment and travel to search for oil buried deep in the ground. All the while contributing to GHG emissions. Once found, it takes a huge pump, more equipment, and more processing, all of which contribute to more emissions. I have this to say to my fellow engineers: “Keep it simple stupid! Did you overlook the obvious? Do you know how to run a business? You’re wasting money and resources, and you’re ruining the environment.”
The answer I believe hangs from a tree. It’s called a coconut. Now let me show you how simple and safe it could be.
Consider the following items in your home: laundry detergent, toothpaste, shampoos, and shaving cream. Every home has them, everyone on the planet uses them. Now take a look at the ingredients on any one of these items and you might see: SLS, SLES, or Sodium Lauryl Sulphate. SLS comes from coconut. The coconut oil is picked from trees, with the Phillipines being the largest exporters. The coconut is split, and the meat (copra) is removed, heated in water and pressed. Energy is used to heat the coconut parts so the oil can come out. Then they add ingredients to make the coconut turn into an acid which adds to further GHG emissions. Then the acid is converted into an alcohol which adds more GHGs still. Then the alcohol is turned into a sulfate which adds—you guessed it—GHGs. Finally the sulfate is reacted with a lye and turns into a salt.
That’s FIVE steps! Five steps and we haven’t even made toothpaste yet! And then in 1983 some toxicologists tell everybody that SLS is bad, as you can read here.
So maybe now there’s a good reason to stop wasting energy, resources, equipment, and manpower: experts in toxicology say it’s bad for human use. ”Nope, that’s not a good reason! Heck, the toxicology folks have it all wrong, let’s keep making it!” Now let’s look at the same product but as an efficient business model and a “good-for-the-environment” model. Consider the following as a business case:
Coconut trees are plants that need carbon dioxide in the process of photosynthesis, and a byproduct of that process generates oxygen. Oxygen is good, so let’s continue. Hire lots of people in places where coconut trees grow to plant coconut trees. Just imagine how many people could have productive jobs and feel good about what they’re doing: planting coconut trees that “eat” carbon dioxide and produce oxygen as a byproduct.
Now that sounds fun and seems like a pretty good plan to me. What do you think? Coconuts are picked each year and processed like the following video demonstrates:
The resulting oil melts so well that it takes no energy to make very good soap, better than SLS. No energy required, so no GHGs are produced in making coconut soap. And coconut oil has been proven to be useful everywhere: laundry, shampoo, de-greasing, multi-purpose cleaners, antifungal agents, antimicrobials, toothpastes, hand cleaners, carpet shampoo, pet shampoo, body wash, and the list goes on. That makes for a good market potential, another “brownie point” for a business case.
And there’s more: coconut oil can be mixed with an alcohol and lye to make a biofuel. And that alcohol mixed with coconut oil comes from sugar cane.
Are you getting the picture? We can grow our own fuels, decrease the energy required to make them, reduce our GHG emissions, AND generate more oxygen in the process. (Here are some facts on coconut oil if you’d like to learn more.)