© Dr Bob Rich & Anina Rich
When my daughter Anina was still a schoolkid, she and I wrote this story together, and entered it in a contest. It won first prize, earning us a solar cooker, which we used every summer for many years.
HIG is a greenhouse gas, produced globally in huge quantities, thus adding to the deterioration of our life support system. Like emanations from garbage tips, it is offensive to most people. Villagers in some cultures go to extreme lengths to avoid the embarrassment of being associated with HIG production. In our own culture, HIG is no longer taboo, but it is treated as the subject of low humour.
HIG has another similarity to garbage tip gases: it is inflammable. According to Brampton et al. (1984), about 85% of it is methane. Unlike methane from the decomposition of garbage, however, it is produced in a decentralized way. Therefore it has the potential to involve millions of people in doing something for the environment, and earning some money at the same time.
What is HIG?
What is HIG? The initials stand for Human Intestinal Gas. This offensive, embarrassing substance is usable as an additive to other fuel gases. Under proper conditions, it burns to produce carbon dioxide, water and energy.
An existing technology can be adapted for collection. This is based on the flatus tube. As doctors and nurses know, this device is used to relieve the suffering of certain patients. (Flatus’ is Latin for HIG, which could also be termed FF: Flatus Fuel.) The flatus tube is inserted into the appropriate orifice, allowing free venting of the gas into the air.
The collecting device
The collecting device is simple. It is a flatus tube with a length of flexible hose attached. The hose can be occluded with a stop-cock, and has a balloon glued to its other end. The balloon is worn on a convenient part of the body. When it is sufficiently full, the stop-cock is closed, the tube is withdrawn, washed, and inserted into a hole in a storage container. The balloon is squeezed, thereby transferring the HIG to the container.
HIG distribution network
A network of purchasing points is needed. Current gasoline retailing outlets would do admirably. Each would have a large tank into which customers can transfer their collected HIG. It is my suggestion that payment for the gas should be free of income tax, and have no effect on Social Security benefits, in order to encourage this form of environmental action.
Environmental and economic benefits
Poor people would have some additional income, especially since foods thought to induce HIG production are cheap yet healthy. Charities and the like would have a new source of fund raising, e.g., a school could have a collecting tank, and ask supporters to donate their HIG.
A significant reduction in fossil fuel use would result, obviously a great environmental benefit.
Once the environmental and economic benefits of harnessing HIG were seen, the balloon of the collecting device could be proudly displayed: a badge of environmental consciousness. However, it is also easy to disguise the collecting balloon, making it enhance the width of a man’s shoulders, the prominence of a woman’s curves, even as a short-term phantom pregnancy.
Here is one way to disguise the collector.
Poor countries could supplement their export earnings by sending their population’s HIG to Japan or the USA, or could save precious foreign currency by reducing their energy imports.
Without a doubt, HIG is the fuel of the future. Its use is an admirable example of ‘turning bad into good’. It is free to produce, cheap to collect, process and use, and it empowers people.
Brampton, K. C., Smythe, M. and Brzsyszky, X. W. The Biochemistry of the Digestive Tract, Churchill Livingstone, 1984.