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Promoting Pie Pasture Power

Promoting Pasture Pie Power

By Diana Estill

If you're like me, you're tired of paying high gasoline prices. So I know you'll be as excited as I was to discover this news; your car, the one you're driving right now, can run on corn!

Now, before you start pulling those little nibblers from the freezer and shoving them into your automobile gas tank, let me explain. Two Dallas energy firms have announced plans to build ethanol plants in the Texas Panhandle. (No, contrary to belief, ethanol plants are not in any way related to tobacco.)

Ethanol is a byproduct of corn. And according to an article I studied for several seconds, today's cars can run on a gasoline mix that can be as much as 85 percent ethanol. (I've no idea where you can buy ethanol or how to mix it with gasoline, so please hold your letter requests.)

But the news keeps getting better. These new ethanol processing plants will be fueled by cow patties! Yes, you read that right - cow chips -- which begs an obvious question; how many cow pies does it take to generate a gallon of ethanol? Or better still, how many cattle does it take to excrete enough pasture Frisbees to make a tanker car full of ethanol? And where, exactly, would one locate such a processing plant? Well, in Hereford, Texas, of course - cattle capital of the world - where residents are already used to the smell of fresh manure.

My mind reeled through the many possibilities associated with this new venture. If an ethanol processing plant can be powered by pasture pies, then maybe electric power plants can, too! And if that were true, electric companies might soon have to ask for rate hikes based on the increasing cost of manure. They could suddenly begin grazing cattle along utility pole rights-of-way. And given our deregulated markets, we could be flooded with utility firms carrying names like Excrement Electric and Cow Pie Energy.

Immediately, I saw several more problems. First, there'll be a direct impact on the fertilizer industry. Homeowners will have to decide which is more important - lush lawns or the fuel required to mow them. And beef could all but disappear from food store freezers. I mean, why slaughter something that if left alive will fuel your car? Perhaps someone should have researched powering these plants with dog doo instead.

But wait. What about that corn? Folks, I see a serious shortage developing. Think about it. Corn is needed to feed the cows that make the manure that fuels the processing plant that produces the ethanol. Yet the ethanol itself is derived from corn. Corn has suddenly become the key to our whole economy! Entire industries (tortilla, muffin, and even beer) could be crippled by corn shortages. National parklands could be consumed by this crop. Price wars could be waged and legislation enacted to stabilize the forces of supply and demand. Cornmeal lobbyist might become even more powerful than they already are!

Well, if all that happens most of us will still enjoy major benefits from new forms of renewable energy and we'll be able to drive on chicken feed and power our homes for the price of a few cow pies. So I say let the chips fall where they may.

Diana Estill is a freelance writer and humorist living in Texas. To read more of her columns, visit