Recent spikes in fuel prices combined with
dire predictions of global warming caused by the use of these fuels has
the American public clamoring for two seemingly contradictory
government actions. We apparently want the government to save us from
high gas costs and global warming at the same time.
Televised “man-on-the-street” interviews depict average folks
lamenting heartbrokenly that high gas prices will cause them to cut
back on their driving, woebegone college students sadly describe having
to car pool, and middle-class Americans admit being forced to
contemplate mass transit.
Even so gasoline use has increased over this time last year, and SUV
sales, considered the bane of the environment, have risen like yeast to
the top of a batch of ale.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, “The numbers for large
SUVs rose nearly 6 percent in the first quarter of 2007, and the April
figures were up 25 percent from April 2006, according to automakers’
statistics provided by Edmunds.com, an automotive research Web site.
The bigger the guzzler, the better the numbers. Sales of GMC’s Yukon XL
were up a whopping 72 percent last month, and the totals for its
Chevrolet sister, the Suburban, rose 38 percent. Topping off the tank
on either one can cost as much as $120.”
That’s bad, right? How about this. According to Bon Appetit
Management Company (not the magazine) it turns out that food (and all
the energy it takes to make it) is one of the largest human activities
contributing to global warming. The average American creates 2.8 tons
of CO2 emissions each year by eating — even more than the 2.2 tons each
person generates by driving, according to recent research (Echel and
Martin, 2006). Bon Appetit Management runs food services in over 400
venues, mostly universities and corporations, and recommends what it
calls a “low-carb diet” that will reduce our carbon use in acquiring,
processing, and preparing our foods.
Yet absent from its guidelines is any mention of the environmental advantage of draft beer over bottled beer.
Roughly 12.7 billion glass beer bottles are produced annually in the
US, with another billion or so being imported. Nearly three-quarters of
these bottles end up in landfill somewhere, where their chemical
structure enables them to endure just about forever. They are the very
opposite of “biodegradable”, and we’re tossing out about 10 billion of
them every year.
So we’re using incredible amounts of electricity to melt glass into
bottles, then we use each one once and throw it away. Even the amount
of electricity used recycling the 2.7 billion bottles that are recycled
is environmentally prohibitive.
Draft beer offers us some help. A metal beer keg can usually be used hundreds of times and then recycled back into a keg again.
Do your part…insist on draft beer at your local pubs and
restaurants. Then drink lots of it. You’ll feel better about your part
in saving the world.