"Imagination is more important than knowledge"… Albert Einstein
Its Good Friday today and the markets are closed.
So instead of bringing you the latest string of bad news from the economy, I’m going to engage in a little starry-eyed dreaming.
And in it, I’m going to imagine a world where we can divorce ourselves from the tyranny of oil that passes through the Persian Gulf.
And in a way, all of this dreaming starts with a fellow you may have heard of. His name was Albert Einstein.
It ends, however, with another starry-eyed dreamer that you’re probably not familiar with.
His name is J.C. Bell and he says that his brainstorm can someday produce enough oil for us to tell the Middle East to take a hike.
But first there is Einstein.
That’s because long before Albert Einstein became- well- Albert Einstein, he spent his days toiling away in obscurity in an office somewhere in Bern, Switzerland.
You see, because in the days and years before he shook the world of physics with his groundbreaking theories, Einstein was like the rest of us– just a guy that went off to work everyday to support his family.
It may be hard to picture, but it was true. Einstein was a just a patent clerk and even then he was not a very good one.
His work as a patent clerk, in fact, was so undistinguished that when he applied for a promotion in 1904, his request was summarily denied. His brilliance, apparently, was lost on his supervisor, Dr. Friedrich Haller, who had rejected him.
But in this regard, at least, Haller can be forgiven. It was, after all, a full year, before what has since become known as Einstein’s miracle year.
That miracle year, of course, was 1905. In it Einstein, at the ripe old age of 26, revealed the theories that would not only rock the world of physics but turn it on its head.
- The special theory of relativity, in which he demonstrated that measurements of time and distance vary systematically since anything moves relative to anything else. In essence, he proved that Newton was wrong.
- The quantum theory of light, the idea that light exists as tiny packets, or particles, that we now call photons. It anchored the most shocking idea in 20th-century physics: we live in a quantum universe, one built out of tiny, discrete chunks of energy and matter.
- His proof that energy and matter are linked in the most famous relationship in physics: E= mc2.
And, of course, in making these and numerous other discoveries, Einstein did eventually become the man that we think of today when we use his name as the embodiment of intelligence.
He did so by having an open mind and by thinking not only outside of the box, but by creating new boxes entirely.
The lesson here, of course, is that sometimes the utterly impossible does occasionally become achievable–despite what everyone else may say or think.
All of which brings us to J.C. Bell, a bright but obscure agricultural researcher.
Bell contends that his brainstorm-a new way to turn biomass into oil-can someday produce 5 billion barrels of oil a year. That’s enough to radically change our dependence on foreign sources.
Here’s Bell’s story by Joe Kovacs entitled: Anything that grows ‘can convert into oil’. It appears on WorldNetDaily.
"After three years of clandestine development, a Georgia company is now going public with a simple, natural way to convert anything that grows out of the Earth into oil.
J.C. Bell, an agricultural researcher and CEO of Bell Bio-Energy, says he’s isolated and modified specific bacteria that will, on a very large scale, naturally change plant material – including the leftovers from food – into hydrocarbons to fuel cars and trucks.
"What we’re doing is taking the trash like corn stalks, corn husks, corn cobs – even grass from the yard that goes to the dump – that’s what we can turn into oil," Bell told WND. "I’m not going to make asphalt, we’re only going to make the things we need. We’re going to make gasoline for driving, diesel for our big trucks."
The agricultural researcher made the discovery after standing downwind from his cows at his food-production company, Bell Plantation, in Tifton, Ga.
"Cows are like people that eat lots of beans. They’re really, really good at making natural gas," he said. "It dawned on me that that natural gas was methane."
Bell says he wondered what digestive process inside a cow enabled it to change food into the hydrocarbon molecules of methane, so he began looking into replicating and speeding up the process.
"Through genetic manipulation, we’ve changed the naturally occurring bacteria, so they eat and consume biomass a little more efficiently," he said. "It works. There’s not even any debate that it works. It really is an all-natural, simple process that cows use on a daily basis."
The research has received strong support from the U.S. Department of Defense, Department of Energy, Department of Agriculture and committees in both chambers of Congress, and Bell plans further discussions in Washington, D.C., next week.
He expects to have the first pilot plant for the process running within two to three months, and will operate it for a year to collect engineering data to design full-scale production facilities. He thinks the larger facilities will be producing oil "inside the next two years."
And just how much oil is in Bell’s bio-forecast?
‘With minor changes in the agricultural and forestry products, we could create two to two and a half billion tons of biomass a year, and you’re looking at 5 billion barrels of oil per year. That would be about two-thirds of what we use now.’"
Now I know what you’re thinking. "Steve stories like this are a dime a dozen." you’ll say.
But consider this.
Einstein came up with his famous equation E = mc2 in 1905.
It perfectly described what happens when we produce nuclear energy. Yet, it took years for it to be accepted as fact.
And even so, it took a mushroom cloud some forty years later to give it expression, usher in the nuclear age, and change how we think about energy.
So while Bell will obviously never be confused with Einstein himself, he just might be on to something important.
So will Bell change our world as we know it? …….Who knows. There was after all only one Einstein.
But if he’s right, his discovery would be one of the greatest game-changers in the world today.
So for his part, Bell and all of the other researchers that are working to solve these problems are to be applauded and encouraged, even if they end up nothing more than starry-eyed dreams.
Einstein, I think, would join in that applause if he were alive today.
"The important thing" said Einstein "is not to stop questioning."
Now that was one smart patent clerk.
Besides, if I can run a marathon on nothing more than a couple of Diet Cokes and peanut butter sandwich, is it that impossible to imagine a car that runs on garbage?
So that’s my starry-eyed dream for today. I know its kind of crazy and simplistic, but it beats thinking about the markets.