Opinion » Maxed Out

Biofuel vs. bears... one of them is a proven winner



I try. Lord knows I try. Every summer I try to step lightly around the goings on at muni hall. It's a good season to mostly ignore what's happening in town and, truth be told, not a half-bad season to simply get out of Dodge. Summertime's the time for easy living and it's certainly not my desire to fuel anyone's summertime blues. Hence, cute dog and cat stories and Tales from the Cariboo.

But in what will certainly be a pointless effort to keep Tiny Town's decision makers from doing something decision makers seem to relish — throwing good money after bad — an overarching sense of civic duty compels me to do what frequent readers know I loathe doing: offering sound, albeit unconventional advice.

And yes, I've offered much of this advice previously. In fact, it was one of the key planks in the mayoral campaign I abandoned nearly two years ago when someone qualified finally decided to run for the office.

And no, I'm not simply being lazy and rehashing an old column. I like to think of it more as the kind of dogged determination shown by Henry Ford's workers when they first approached the old anti-Semite with their desire for a 40-hour work week. Henry, being the warm-hearted human he was, unleashed the dogs of the Pinkerton detective(sic) agency on them and busted heads. But confident in the reasonableness of their request, the workers eventually prevailed. There's a lesson here, you workerbees. The union makes you strong.

But I digress.

The muni wants to study the possibility of converting the ultimate product of the municipal composter from "nutrient-rich topsoil," their words, into biofuel. The pro-forma cost of this conversion — pro-forma being Latin for wild-ass guess, usually several whole-number multiples less than the final cost — is $1.7 million.

The composter, which cost — are you sitting down? — $13.7 million and costs each and every Whistler tax payer $102 per year to operate, net of revenue generation, takes commercial and residential food waste, a.k.a. garbage, and mixes it with wood chips and the biosolids created after the sewage treatment plant gets done processing everything everyone flushes down Whistler's toilets. No wonder they call them biosolids.

The plan to create biofuel would divert the garbage from the recipe for nutrient-rich topsoil, leaving wood chips and peoplepoo, which was more or less the recipe the treatment plant used to follow to make a nutrient-rich soil amendment that made things grow like stink and made your yard smell like an outhouse for about a week after you spread it around. An acceptable tradeoff, especially if you suffer allergies that render your nose inoperative and/or you want to piss your neighbours off when they plan a garden party for the day after you amend your soil. Don't ask me how I know.

It is hoped, the biofuel could be sold to a cement company in the lower mainland. I don't know exactly what they intend to do with it and I'm not certain I want to know. Regardless, the penultimate goal of this idea is to generate both biofuel and more income than the composter is making selling nutrient-rich topsoil.

I really don't want to get into the competing, private enterprise composter proposal, the objections "organic" growers have to nutrient-rich topsoil "contaminated" with whatever gets flushed down toilets or the cosmic question of whether or not a municipal government ought to be in the alternative fuel business. Like I said in the first paragraph, it's summer; we all need a break.

The ultimate goal of this idea, which ironically was the ultimate goal of the composter in the first place, is the holy grail of creating zero waste or at least reducing Whistler's garbage.

I still think I have a better idea.

Bears. Whistler bears.