Directly across the street from the OC Weekly world headquarters in Fountain Valley is the Orange County Sanitation District. I’ll wait until you are done snickering.
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Around the corner is the Orange County Water District, and within the grounds of both are facilities for the Groundwater Replenishment System, which turns human waste into purified water for irrigation, industrial uses and, yes, drinking water.
Before going online in January 2008, the so-called “toilet-to-tap” system was mocked by snark-slingers such as yours truly, but the remarkable recycler has won international praise, awards and, the sincerest form of compliment, imitation, especially in drought-plagued regions.
That is something to keep in mind with the latest poopy power proposal. The Southern California Gas Co. filed a plan with the California Public Utilities Commission on Feb. 28 to derive renewable natural gas from methane produced by waste not only from people, but also dairy cows.
The gas company contends the untapped clean energy source would help not only its 21 million Central and Southern California customers—who include residents, businesses and transportation providers—but also the planet because capturing methane before it enters the atmosphere would help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It’s billed as being much cheaper and more effective than requiring all-electric kitchen appliances.
Likening the process to the consumer electricity programs created by solar panels and wind farms, SoCal Gas officials further propose that its customers be given the option of purchasing portions of their natural gas from renewable sources, something they contend will increase supply and drive down costs.
Two questions: Will supply keep up with demand enough that the gas and water companies won’t go to war over the same dookie? And will capturing cow methane eliminate that awful smell that gets into my car vents while driving near Chino?
Just think: Poop from those dairy cows can create the natural gas that comes out of your stovetop as you heat milk from those dairy cows for the sauce with your entrée that will come out of you and help create the natural gas. . . . It’s the circle of life, and the movements of us all.
Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.