Biodiesel and a new triangle trade.

When I was in lower forms of schooling, some of the history I was forced involved the Triangle Trade.  Now, while this title has a catchy, alliterative name, it’s a little misleading.  The Triangle Trade was not necessarily a triangle – it was often more of a quadrilateral.  It involved slaves from Africa and the Caribbean, sugar and rum from the Caribbean, tobacco and indigo from the US, and manufactured goods from Europe.  The idea was that traders profited by moving all these goods from where they were most common to where they were most scarce.  It was also probably somewhat damaging and disadvantageous for local economies, especially in Africa with the loss of the majority of the workforce.

The current price of the cost of oil is high enough that alternative methods, like biodiesel, are being sought after.  The US is even offering government subsidies for certain types of blended biodiesels.  That’s all well and good (other than causing a shortage of certain crops), but it’s also led to another kind of profiteering that may not be so good – ‘splash and dash’ fuels.  These are European-produced biofuels shipped to the US, mixed with a little bit of other fuel here (either another biofuel or regular petroleum), which is then eligible for a subsidy.  The new substance is considered a ‘created’ blend due to the mixing, and can be transported right back to Europe and sold for less than the price of the original biofuel.  Evidently the subsidy covers enough per gallon to make two-way shipping and an undercutting price profitable.

Some may say more power to those able to circumvent the system, but I have a few problems with this.  The spirit of the law is definitely being breached here – it’s costing a high environmental cost to ship all this biofuel in tankers across the Atlantic.  Even without the environmental cost of shipping, I’m not sure how I feel about even having the oil in the water.  Is biofuel less harmful to the environment if spilled?  Obviously, it’s not curde, but it’s still…well, oily.  Even if the Valdez was dumping thousands of gallons of salad dressing, it still would’ve been ghastly.  In addition, the two-way modern ‘triangle trade’ is putting legitimate biofuel producers out of business, at a time when they should be thriving.  Finally, I’m a consumer.  I want to get what I pay for – not what someone can cheat the government out of.

Double Stuf

Some of you may be familiar with the singer Harry Chapin, who does a variety of more ridiculous songs for adults.  I know him via his brother Tom, who was my childhood substitution for Raffi.  Anyway, one of Harry’s songs that I delight in is ‘30,000 Pounds of Bananas’.  Just picture it – a truck losing control outside of Scranton, sacrificing its load to the demon of bad breaks on a  treacherous road.  Now replace the treacherous road with a relatively flat and straight one, and substitute the bananas with 14 tons of Double Stuf Oreos, and you have today’s news.

While I find it ridiculous to envision literal TONS of cookies stopping traffic, there are other questions.  What happened to the driver?  Did he lose control?  Was he injured?  Did he have to eat his way out of tons of cookies after the spill?  The article claims none of the cookie bags ripped open (yeah right), but even for those cookies still in bags, are there legal issues to selling them after the spill?  Nobody likes crumbly Oreos.  Personally, i think the company should sell the goods at a discount.  Who knows what kind of invisible damage could result from the spill?  There could be a complete loss of structural integrity, resulting in dissolving cookie if I try to dip it in milk.  I vote, if not for a discount, at least for a random dipping test of the cookies spilled, just to check.  I would guess there are very few who like oreo cookie floaters in their milk, either.

Thanks to Kate for the article and keeping me up to date on the Midwest (woohoo!).

Reality Check

It seems that recently I’ve had less sympathy for the lovelorn.  Perhaps it’s my own comfort with my current relationship, or even my own security with my friends in not having to make as much effort to secure their affections.  Another part of it might be the slothful side of my nature coming out.  Why feign interest in other people’s romantic strife as long as it’s short-lived?  Why not try to keep more of an even keel, rather than following the ups and downs of dating?

However, among certain friends this is seen as potentially negative.  If I’m not excited for you when you’re super-excited about some new guy or gal, what kind of friend am I, anyway?  The ups and downs are LIFE, and if I’m not living them vicariously through my friends, then I’m not really living.  In addition, to be so emotionally even is cold, almost inhuman, even for a New Englander.  Is my tragic flaw to be a lack of sympathy?  Am I really heartless?

To test myself, I used the Puppy Check:

Nope, still adorable.  I must have feelings left in there somewhere.

Off Road Rage

I don’t like people acting dumb.  I get really annoyed especially when someone else’s dumbness impinges on my freedoms or activities, or especially when it reduces my safety.  Still, I do have my limits.  I might use a horribly annoying tone of voice, or yell, or even smack someone.  But it’s rare for me to revert to more serious violence.

Especially on the road, this is not the general rule.  People hate other drivers cutting them off, or driving unsafely or too slow, or generally not knowing or communicating what they are doing.  People steal parking places from one another, park illegally, or leave their moving vans blocking the entire road.  People, as a general rule, suck.  Sometimes in these situations they resort to physical violence against each other, for real or imagined slights, as in this case of two men tasering each other.

Was this the case of a tense situation escalating?  Did the security guard have the right to inspect the area in the first place, and in particular, put the boot on a van behind a restaurant?  Even if he didn’t should the restaurant owner have attempted to get the boot off himself, rather than calling security?  Was anyone really right here, or is it just a case of selfish annoyance at the situation, and why do we feel like we shouldn’t have to ‘put up with’ such things?  I am sure both sides felt justified in their actions.  Are we so eager for others to listen to our side and understand, that we’re like perpetual teenagers, always acting out so someone else will be forced to deal with us?