Every time you pick up the newspapers you read of some newfangled thing that is going to save us from the oil crisis. One day it's methane made from garbage, the next day it's hot springs underneath Montana -- then it's ocean waves that can be tamed, and then there are, of course, energy-producing windmills.
I can't keep up with all of it, but Carbuncle can and does.
A month ago he told me, "Did you hear they have a new synthetic fuel that can save a million barrels of oil a day?"
"No," I said. "What is it?"
"After-shave lotion. Some professor at MIT discovered that after-shave lotion contains alcohol. He devised a method of taking the perfume out of it through a cracking process, and what's left can be burned in a car."
"Great," I said. "When will they start making it?"
"Right now the price is too high. A pint of Faberge after-shave will cost you $25, but if the OPEC countries keep raising their rates the prices will soon be competitive."
A few days later he came back. "Well, it's all over for the Arabs. A geologist in Colorado has just developed a method of squeezing oil out of asphalt roads. He was able to get one quart of crude out of a mile of asphalt. He figures with all the asphalt roads in America we should be self-sufficient by 1989, and we can tell Iran to go to hell."
"I knew they'd come up with something. Wait a minute! If they dig up all the asphalt roads in the United States there will be nothing for the cars to drive on."
"Exactly! That's where the big conservation savings will come. He's just applied for a grant from the Department of Energy."
"To continue his research?"
"No, for bail money. They arrested him for digging up a stretch of U.S. Highway 70."
I didn't hear from Carbuncle for a week. Then he called me excitedly on the phone.
"There is a man in New Jersey who has perfected a system to make coal out of gold. One ton of gold will give you one ton of soft-burning coal."
"Great! How does it work?"
"Once you get the gold you put it in a blast furnace of 1,500 degrees. This produces a gas, which you siphon off. The residue at the bottom of the furnace hardens and looks just like coal. You scrape it up and shape it in pellets. A ton of it can get you through the winter. The beauty is that coal made from gold doesn't pollute the air."
"It sounds like the answer," I said.
A few days later the phone rang again. Carbuncle said, "You been watching television?"
"There's a guy on the 'Today' show who runs his car on Tabasco sauce. He says he mixes three gallons of Tabasco with one gallon of no-lead, and a tank of fuel lasts him a month."
"Tabasco does have a kick to it," I admitted.
"You bet your sweet life it does. He told Tom Brokaw all the oil companies know about it, but won't use it because they're afraid it will cut into their profits."
Yesterday carbuncle called again. "The energy crisis is over. A 14-year-old boy scout in Pasadena rubbed two sticks together and managed to get a fire out of it. The National Academy of Science duplicated the experiment and it works. This country has enough sticks to light every home in the United States for 2,000 years."
"Yeh, but what do you burn after the fire gets started?" I asked.
Carbuncle replied, "Furniture. It's cheaper now than heating oil."