Biodiesel. Hemp. Local sustainable farms. Hippie tech is infuriating. You know in your engineer's heart it won't work, but because it's outside your field of study you lack the handy stats to rebut the moonbat ideas evangelized by modern-day hippies and their shiny shiny cousins, the ravers. Before Burning Man starts up again in earnest, I've prepared canned comebacks and bookmarkable URLs from hippie-approved sources like Wikipedia and GreenBiz.
Hippie tech: It's a miracle plant that's been banned due to pressure from America's powerful tobacco lobby.
Reality check: The European Union and China subsidize hemp growers. Canada, the UK and Germany, which had banned hemp production, have allowed its commercial growth and sale since the 1990s. The result? Dude, check the people's encyclopedia: "British production is mostly used as bedding for horses; other uses are under development. The largest outlet for German fibre is composite automotive panels." And that's the propaganda in Wikipedia. Sorry, Sparkle Bunny, hemp just ain't the new soybean.
Hippie tech: We can become energy-independent (cough Iraq cough) by converting food wastes to fuel.
Reality check: They tried running city trucks on 100% biodiesel in Berkeley. The trucks developed a habit of conking out at busy intersections, their engines gummed up with biodiesel residue. Berkeley dropped back to a 20 percent biodiesel mix. In San Francisco, attempts to locally manufacture biodiesel from cooking grease hit the wall: San Franciscans don't eat enough fried food to generate the raw materials. Maybe you should move to Oklahoma and try there!
Hippie tech: They're huge fossil-fuel-burning monsters, the mega-SUVs of the global economy. Ban them from the Bay!
Reality check: Container ships are maybe 50 times more carbon-efficient than trucks. Global shipping accounts for only 2 to 3 percent of worldwide fossil fuel consumption. Trucks burn at least 15 percent. The real problem with container ships is lack of pollution controls on the world's biggest diesel engines. Still, one of the most damning studies available attributes 60,000 annual deaths worldwide to shipping-based pollution. By that estimate you're seven times more likely to die from drowning. And yes, there's that ship that hit the bridge last month and spilled oil and killed all those birds — well, not that you went down to the water to see for yourself. The San Francisco Chronicle is working overtime to hype the Cosco Busan spill into the most terrible horrible wildlife-killing catastrophe that's ever happened to the Bay Area. It sucked, but do you think the editors at the Chron want the big ships gone? Hell no, they just want more City Hall regulators they can report on.
Hippie tech: Using sustainable organic methods, we should all grow our own food.
Reality check: Look up "Operation Feed Yourself" in Ghana. Yeah, that went real well. The average American farmer feeds 130 people, a productivity increase of six times over in the past forty years. If you want to push organic farming and sustainable measures, fine. Most of my paycheck goes to Whole Foods, gladly. But tell me I should spend less time writing so I can grow my own vegetables, and I'll whack you over the head with an economics textbook open to the chapter on comparative advantage.
Hippie tech: A plot by the AMA, the FBI and the tobacco lobby (again) has kept cannabis sativa from easing the pain of millions. And ouch, I could kinda use some right now.
Reality check: For once, the hippies are right. Web 2.0 wouldn't exist without San Francisco's determined efforts to look the other way while your entire engineering department smokes up on the roof. To very very loosely paraphrase Steve Jobs, the way to create the next Apple is to get good and baked, then think up your idea for a business.