When I was in high school, I was a policy debater. It was something I was pretty good at but was never the best. Still, a lot of how I look at certain issues comes from the trained skill of examining both sides of an important issue, which is really something that has come naturally for me with a father that constantly plays devil’s advocate. My freshman year, the debate topic was “Resolved that the Federal Government should establish a policy to substantially increase the use of renewable energy use in the United States.” You can tell debate had a pretty big impact on my life because here it is almost 15 years later and I still have that resolution memorized. I don’t want to bore you with the details of my partner and I’s plan, it was a pretty run-of-the-mill solar power initiative common in Freshman Debate, but I want to tell you about a little squirrel plan developed by a pair of seniors that only wanted to finally get their Letter in Forensics.
A “Squirrel Plan,” for those of you unfamiliar with the terminology, is a plan that is so wingnut left field that your opponent just flat out has no way of arguing against it because they haven’t ever dreamed of researching it. With the renewable energy topic that year, there were some doozies on both sides, but I think the one that was possibly the most insane I’d heard was “Man-Power.”
Now, their plan wasn’t particularly well developed, because they were only doing debate because it is required for lettering, but it stuck in my head for years and years to come. Their plan was so off the wall that they used the Marvel Encyclopedia as an evidence source, citing human mutation and super powers to increase their efficiency. These were not guys that took their chosen topic seriously. I believe they had a negative counter-plan that involved giving elementary school children positively charged jumpsuits and having them play on negatively charged playgrounds to generate electricity. There was also a proposal to give these kids more and more sugar and other stimulants to make them play more. See, not well thought out.
At the heart of their Man-Power plan, in its core, was the idea that we had a ton of people in the US on Government assistance and Unemployment and that we could better use those funds to employ them in pushing turbines.
Yes, there plan was to basically turn all people on government aid into Conan the Barbarian, I know, it’s brilliant.
There reasons cited for this was that it would allow the US to use funds that were otherwise giving nothing back in return (morally arguable), and instead create cheap, clean power for the entire country while also bettering the health of the workers through good, continuous exercise. After all, like I already said, it worked for Conan.
Of course from there they sited eradiating volunteer workers (who would be paid significantly more) with “Gamma Radiation” creating an entire turbine pushing work force of Incredible Hulks. It was extremely farfetched to say the least, complete bull honkey and a waist of time to be more accurate, but there was a seed of a good idea hidden away there.
I just finished reading Former President Clinton’s book “Back to Work – Why We Need a Smart Government for a Strong Economy,” and was inspired by his belief that alternative energy and green technology was the best future for growth in the American Economy (and he had a lot of evidence to back that). Actually, you should read this book, no matter where you fall on the political spectrum. As a former president with no real need to push a political agenda, he does a good job of analyzing the strengths and weaknesses on both sides of the aisle and presenting a decent set of ideas for our future. I endorse this book for people who like to think instead of recite talking points. So, not for Congress.
Still, it made me think about two of the biggest problems that America is facing right now, which is the fact that Nature is trying to kill us both through climate change and diabetes. Let’s face it, we’ve abused our bodies and our world and they’ve decided to fight back and kill us off for our own good. I think that if we can come up with a way to curb both the use of fossil fuels and obesity with one swipe of the pen we should take it.
Then it all came rushing to me as if a message from god:
Man Power Revisited
Unlike two seniors just looking for a quick loss to put on their record as having competed in a debate, the idea actually stuck in my head and festered, possibly for the last 15 years. Now, it is begging to come rushing forward and be thrown out to whoever is willing to invest in my genius idea.
Public Gyms that are connected to generators.
We’ve all seen TV shows and movies where someone powers their blender by doing 10 minutes of cardio on a bike generator, and 15% of Americans have Gym memberships so they can drive to the gym and then bike in place or run on a treadmill for an hour. They do it to burn their own calories, and they pay good money for the right to do it.
So, why not turn their calories into electrical power instead?
I do not belong to a gym for several reasons, but the most important one is the massive cost. I can’t afford to pay $55 a month (the cheapest gym in the area) for a gym membership, especially since I lack motivation to really go to the gym in the first place. I might be more inclined to go to the gym though (and my friends that are always trying to get me to go might have more success) if it were free. Gyms are expensive for a reason, though, they have a high cost of operation and maintenance, partially because most gym equipment takes a lot of power to run.
But, why does it have to take that kind of power? Why can’t it generate electricity instead?
An average bike generator being powered by a decently in shape person can put out 320 watts per hour. Now, the average home uses roughly 1100 KWh per month, so it would take about 60 people spending 3 hours a week in a gym to power one house. That’s a lot, but with no cost to run the bikes and a net gain in power creation, it would pay for the gym itself, which would also have membership rate fees for using weight equipment to help subsidize. I think you would actually make money, still, because once people were in the door using the free cardio equipment, they’d be more motivated to pay the reduced fees for weight equipment.
It’s not the silver bullet, but I think it might be an idea worth investigating.
<h2>Like Jobs always said, “Think Different.”</h2> <p>My idea is crazy, and probably a little laughable, but that’s the direction America needs to start going it. Let’s all shoot for the moon. What do we really have to lose?