Spring Break Reruns -- Don't mess with my charcoal

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From March 31, 2008

Hey, I love hugging trees and going green and shrinking my carbon footprint as much as the next enlightened bloke. We’ve got compact fluorescent bulbs in every socket.

On top of that, we’re … uh, did I mention the light bulbs?

Anyway, we’re doing stuff, or at least we plan to, and I’ve been glad to join in the fight against climate change.

At least I was glad, until I came across a few troubling Internet sites.

Turns out, according to some environmentalists, my charcoal grill, the spiritual focal point of my backyard existence, is an environmental offender. It spews greenhouse gas and soot into the atmosphere. My beautiful American-made Weber kettle grill, with its handy prep table and utensil hooks, is a culinary Hummer.

Yeah? Well, just try and take it, greenies. I’ve got tongs, and I’m not afraid to use them.

Some of the best moments of my life have been tinged with charcoal smoke. It’s the smell of all our Memorial Day and Independence Day and Labor Day celebrations. It’s the aroma of football season.

I charmed my wife-to-be on the back deck of my apartment in Fort Dodge with nightly grilling sessions.

“Something deep in our human DNA drives us toward the primordial satisfaction of cooking over crackling flames and glowing embers,” writes Chef Jamie Purviance in Weber’s official charcoal cookbook. “Each time we light a live fire, we reconnect with generations of ancestors all the way back to the beginning of civilization.”

OK, that’s seriously over the top. But I can relate.

Most people grill with propane, but I’ve refused to convert. They say gas is quicker. I say guys can solve a lot of the world’s persistent problems standing around a grill, waiting for the coals to heat up.

Now I find out I’m part of the world’s big climate problem every time I light up. Several Web sites argue that gas grilling is environmentally cleaner. But is this really an inconvenient truth?

Not necessarily, according to the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Last July, the lab’s research showed that, in the long term, charcoal has an environmental advantage.

“Charcoal is made from wood,” said researcher Tris West in a news release. “It is a renewable energy source, which means once that CO2 is emitted into the atmosphere, forests are then regrown wherever they were cut down and they take up CO2 from the atmosphere. There’s a carbon cycle. We release it and then it’s taken back up by the trees.”

The trees. I knew it. I think I’ll go hug one.


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