Newton Emerson in excellent form, once again, in today’s Irish Times,
foolishly bravely running the risk of comparison with a satirical giant of Irish literature with a modest proposal for the Secretary of State, Peter Hain, to consider
I’d like to reprint the whole piece.. if you’re reading this, Newton?.. Until then here’s a few [a few? – Ed] paragraphs –
Northern Secretary Peter Hain unveiled two new budget priorities in his speech to the British Labour Party conference: “Boosting our investment in Northern Ireland’s children” and “A new drive to promote renewable and other clean energy.”
The announcement is not before time. Almost half of Northern Ireland’s children leave school with no useful qualifications, while Belfast has the worst air quality in the United Kingdom.
However, as the secretary of state did not announce any new funding for these policies, an imaginative, joined-up government approach to their implementation will have to be found.
That is why this column proposes using disadvantaged children to generate electricity.
Placed in a suitably rewarding environment, such as a treadmill, a child can produce 120 watts of power comfortably over a long period or up to 200 watts of power uncomfortably over an even longer period.
There are 383,300 children aged under 16 in Northern Ireland. If the educationally hopeless half were all placed on treadmills for 12-hour shifts they could generate almost 20 megawatts of electricity on a continuous basis.
More alternative generation of energy –
As Peter Hain said in his speech last week: “My vision for Wales is my vision for Northern Ireland” – and that vision is clear. By making underprivileged children climb to the top of Slieve Donard at the end of their 12-hour shift, then lowering them down again in buckets attached to generators as needed, peak demand can be easily met. Thanks to a poor diet the typical underprivileged child weighs around 12 stone so the potential energy stored would be quite considerable.
Or.. even more alternatively –
Poor diet offers a further possibility for power generation. Thanks to their consumption of fat, sugar, salt and processed meat, all underprivileged children are exceptionally flatulent.
If the resulting methane could be collected, preferably while the children are on their treadmills, it could be fed to a biogas generator of the type currently found on some landfill sites.
An average daily output of 50ml per child would result in 9,582 cubic metres of fuel, delivering around 120 kilowatts of bonus capacity.
There is no doubt that underprivileged children are the clean energy source of tomorrow, especially if we wash them today.