In the 1800s Oxford professor Erasmus Wilson said, “When the Paris Exhibition of 1878 closes, electric light will close with it and no more will be heard of it.”
In the days immediately preceding World War I, Marshal Ferdinand Foch, professor of military strategy at France’s equivalent of West Point, said, “Airplanes are interesting toys, but of no military value.”
When told that the technology was at hand that would let silent movies blossom forth with sound, one of the Warner brothers himself said, “Who the hell wants to hear actors speak?”
And there, but for the grace of God, goes … yes, me too!
On Feb. 23, at the University of Miami, President Obama proposed alternative energy sources, including “algae.”
The president was subjected by syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer to a scathing riff of ridicule with a warhead of enriched sarcasm, pretending to praise this “ingenious” president for coming to America’s energy rescue with “algae,” which indeed abounds on rocks, on glaciers, in ditches, in shrubbery – I’m paraphrasing. I don’t do sarcasm as well as Charles Krauthammer. And that’s not self-deprecation; neither does anybody else! And neither does anybody else do anything else in journalism as well as Krauthammer. It’s important I lay out my admiration of Mr. Krauthammer right here. He’s so brilliant he shouldn’t be allowed to think during take-offs or landings. Shortly after my wife, Sara, and I met in 2008, we were watching the evening news on Fox. Krauthammer was on his usual panel with two other commentators. Whenever either of the other two said anything, Sara would shout at the TV set: “Let Charles speak!” That’s when I decided to ask her to marry me!
Charles spoke, all right, after Obama’s “algae” remark, and his put-down utterly chimpanzified the president. And I would have done the exact same thing, if I hadn’t known Adrian Vance.
I have sent Charles Krauthammer the following information. If I learn he takes it with anything but a smile, I’ll throw myself on the floor.
President Obama referred to algae as “a plant-like substance” he says has the power to cut our dependence on foreign oil by 17 percent. Listen to the words of teacher-writer-scientist-inventor Adrian Vance in his blog, “The Two Minute Conservative,” for Friday, Feb. 24, 2012:
“Algae is a plant, Sir, and it can do more than 17 percent.”
“Mr. President,” Adrian Vance continues, “I just happen to have U. S. Patent 7,855,061 for The Fuel Farm that converts algae to butanol, a fuel superior to gasoline in terms of price, safety and national security, It burns in a car like gasoline, but has one-fourteenth the volatility and would save 15,000 people from burning to death every year. Add a quart of oil to 25 gallons and you can put it in diesels. Plus, it works in turbojet engines!”
Vance continues, “A single facility 14 miles on a side could make all the fuel for every motor vehicle in America. But, I would build thousands of small units to cut transportation and distribution [costs]. Spreading the facilities around is a defensive strategy. America would never be ‘out of gas.’”
All of us in journalism would like the watching world to think our scoops are the fruits of our brilliance and diligence, but that’s all owned by Krauthammer. I just happen to have been a personal friend of inventor Adrian Vance for 20 years. He appears frequently on our radio talk show, sometimes with no more than 20 minutes notice. He writes of his childhood as a “faculty brat,” that “a college campus is like a Central American banana republic, without bullets.” Knowing Adrian is one of my fringe benefits in journalism. Adrian has a friend in Wisconsin who had as a pet a 30-pound fish, which would swim from the middle of the lake to where he was on the shore, like a dog heeding its master’s summons. You don’t get much of that in my native North Carolina.
A U. S. patent, let’s understand, does not say, “We, the scientists of the government, think this invention is great and industry ought to invest big bucks.” But a patent does say, “We’ve done our blood-testing and wine-tasting and thumping around beneath the waterline, and this invention is scientifically sound on first, second, third and home!”
I have a dream. About 20 years from now a fifth-grade teacher somewhere in America will ask her students, “Who can name our two most important inventors, and why they are the most important?” And little Cathy stands up and replies, “Thomas Edison and Adrian Vance. Edison lit up the world and Vance put the oil-producing nations of the Middle East in their place – selling pistachios alongside the bagel carts in mid-town Manhattan.”
Warning: Vance’s Fuel Farm has nothing to do with ethanol. Ethanol production consumes much more energy than it delivers; according to Vance, three times more! Apparently, ethanol’s main application is energizing Iowa Caucuses.
I’ve lost hope of being the one to make peace between Jews and Muslims.
Let’s see if I can make peace between Krauthammer and algae!