Saturday, November 21, 2009

How green are the Alpine Valleys?

I just returned last night from a week spent in Switzerland. My time was spent primarily in Basel and at a small town on Lake Zug near Zurich. I also visited Lucerne. Switzerland has incredible geographic beauty and is not an overcrowded place. In Basel it was interesting to note that folks often commute to work on bicycles even now in the late fall. The weather was actually very warm as a warm front from the Mediterranean had swept up from Italy and France, but folks there often commute on bicycles even in the winter. There are trolleys, buses and trains and many do commute via public transport. Many though do commute to work in their personal vehicles and although gasoline and diesel are pretty expensive at about $6 per US gallon those who commute in their personal cars are not dissuaded even by this high cost to use alternate transportation. Basel has a very old ferry system that is used to ferry a few passengers across the Rhine River. There are numerous bridges to walk over and the Rhine is no Mighty Mississippi. The ferry functions by a pipe sliding over a guide wire strung high above the river and attached to a small boat that may hold as many as twenty people. The operator sits at the rear of the boat and has a hand operated tiller for the rudder. By angling the rudder in the right direction the flow of the river and the tethering of the boat by a wire to the pipe on the guide wire the boat vectors across the river simply on the power of the flow of the river and without any human or mechanical power. This was by far the greenest idea I have seen in cross river ferry transportation and Basel gets the Green Machine award for the city keeping the ferry in operation. No doubt the ferry is subsidized by the city as it only cost about a dollar a ride. A small café au lait in a coffee shop costs about five dollars.

I did have breakfast on the banks of the Rhine quite near the spot where the ferry operates and I chose hot chocolate over coffee as the hot chocolate in Switzerland is wunderbar. Several Swiss candy companies are now owned by Nestle as well as Kraft but there are still a few independent chocolate bar manufacturers who purvey the best chocolate I have ever tasted. All this talk of calorie laden delights has me thinking of a news item I saw last night on the CNN internet web sight. It was reported that gangs in Peru have killed some people for their body fat that is then used for high end cosmetics and in reconstructive surgery. http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/americas/11/20/fat.dead.humans.peru/index.html The value of the human fat was reported by CNN at $15,000 a liter or almost $60,000 a US gallon. A liter of fat does not have as much fuel value as a liter of gasoline as human fat is already partially oxidized and gasoline is simply a hydrocarbon. Perhaps gasoline will also cost $15,000 a liter one day in the future. The Peruvian thugs make the plastic surgeon in Los Angeles who was arrested about a year ago for converting human fat he obtained from patients he had liposuctioned into biodiesel look extremely dumb. The LA plastic surgeon who fueled his Mercedes derived a paltry $5.00 a gallon when fuel prices peaked in the summer of 2008 in California. Human greed shows no bounds does it? Nor does the human desire to be thin and look Wunderbar show any bounds.

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