Prairie dogs may be key to energy independence

Forget oil shale. Natural gas? Blow it off. Uranium? A mere flash in the pan.

Hydropower? Who needs it?  We can start tearing down the dams and free the too-long-harnessed power of water.

What, you ask is the modest proposal that could possibly free humanity from the death grip of fossil fuels, the dependence on the petroleum remains of T. Rex, Barney and all their dino friends?

In a word: Rabbits.

Seems the Swedes have taken this whole biofuel thing more seriously than anyone imagined and have begun using rabbit carcasses to fire their power plants.

The rabbits being fed to the flames have inhabited the parks of Stockholm and they apparently feed too heavily on the shrubs and trees. Many were pets that were freed by one-time owners to frolic and play in the woods and get out from underfoot.

In 2008, the Swedes cooked up 6,000 long-eared pellets of petroleum substitute after freezing them and sending them to a special plant at Karlskoga, in central Sweden. There, they helped to heat the homes and businesses of Värmland.

Prolific as they might be, and no one questions the ability of rabbits to procreate, it’s unlikely that Jack and Bunny can hop to the job of becoming the United States’ domestic fuel source that will deliver, finally, energy independence.

They’ll need help.

Western Colorado can help augment the fur-covered energy supply with its own fuel store: the ubiquitous prairie dog.

If we take to looking upon them not as flea-infested vermin clusters, pests or plagues, but as potential energy sources, prairie dogs suddenly look comfier than Snuggies.

Think of vast herds of prairie dogs surrounding power plants such as Hayden Station, dying and multiplying in vast numbers, the little bodies of their aging population being converted to a high purpose — the generation of electricity for the modern industrial machine that has ushered in wonders such as television, computers, cell phones, BlackBerries, the Web, even cable-television views of Michael Moore’s monumental girth, Madonna’s, well, everything, VH-1, a man on the moon and the National Football League.

No longer will we look upon the desiccated remains of a prairie dog in the middle of U.S. Highway 50 as a curiosity and occasional meal for a magpie or two.

Instead, we’ll look upon them as one lost spin of a turbine, a missed opportunity to heat a nursery, a lost burst of energy that would send an e-mail along its electrical pathway.

Instead of hunting the creatures, we could nourish them and increase their numbers. Colleges could offer p-dog-husbandry majors and entire new veterinary sciences could be born. Even p-dog droppings could be converted into fertilizer that could jump-start the crops needed to nourish the future feedstocks of fuel.

There would be no need to drill for natural gas on the Roan Plateau. It could be left in its natural state, albeit behind electrified fences that would keep the little BTU suppliers safely off the roads.

P-dog wranglers could serenade the towns under the western Colorado stars, tourists could visit and buy their kiddies little p-dog caps, sort of like Daniel Boone’s caps, but without the dust-attracting raccoon tail.

Once the little beasties’ lives were done, truckers could haul their carcasses gently to the giant generator in the sky.

There would be no more need to risk the water table to the ravages of hydraulic fracturing or cooking kerogen from oil shale.

No need to tamper with the primal forces of the atom.

All we would need would be the friendly, social, cute prairie dog.

And we owe it all to the Scandinavians, whose noble bloodline has also given us the Nobel Peace Prize.

What could possibly go wrong?


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