Last night we went out in the Smart electric car for an evening walk along the Hudson, from the Dutchtown trailhead. We then went to our sailboat at its winter marina in Haverstraw for dinner and a night on the water. The stove on the boat is fueled with propane, but that’s a fossil fuel, so we had to do without. Instead, we brought two backpacking stove alcohol burners with us to cook our dinner soup (caldo verde, a delicious and simple kale and potato soup).
Which leads to a question: is alcohol stove fuel fairy considered a non-fossil fuel? Well, no one would argue that grain alcohol is a fossil fuel when you drink the stuff. Stove fuel is mostly ethanol – which is grain alcohol. But ethanol is the product of an industrial-political agricultural complex that is nearly as corrupt and unsustainable as the fossil fuel industry. And for every two BTUs of energy in ethanol, it took one BTU of fossil fuel energy to distill and process it.
Still EPA counts ethanol as a renewable fuel. That is because, thanks to the corn lobby, Congress requires EPA to do so. But, unlike fossil fuels, the hydrocarbons that you burn in ethanol were recycled from the atmosphere on an ongoing basis, so ethanol is sustainable in the sense that the energy in ethanol comes from solar energy collected by the corn crops while the corn was growing. This is never true of fossil fuels. Clean , sustainable, carbon neutral ethanol is possible. Clean, sustainable, carbon neutral liquid fossil fuels are not. And ethanol doesn’t fit the definition of a fossil fuel.
So I will take credit for fossil fuel free caldo verde last night and Sunday morning pancake breakfast on board as well. We stopped for a hike up High Tor on the way home and passed the time trying to come up with seven different ways of cooking dinner without fossil fuels this week. Charcoal barbecue falls into the same general category as ethanol – the underlying energy is renewable biomass that is growing as fast as we use it, but the processing still involves fossil fuels. So I can count charcoal as fossil free as well. We came up with 1) stove top dinners on alcohol burners, 2) barbecue, 3) stove top induction plate cooking, 4) some slow cooked meal in the electric crock pot, 5) a microwave cooked meal, 6) a stovetOp meal with the little Sierra backpackers wood stove I have with my camping gear, and 7) a paella cooked the traditional Spanish way over an open fire in the backyard. Fossil fuel free cooking depends a lot on th availability of renewable electricity. I need to get to work on that paella firepit soon.