Op-Ed

UK research focus on coal, tobacco outdated

If the University of Kentucky ever hopes to become a Top 20 research institution, or even to be taken seriously as a place of higher learning, it should stop wasting millions of dollars on researching what we already know.

For decades, the UK Tobacco and Health Research Institute pretended to be creating a safer cigarette and finding new uses for the golden leaf. In reality, it was nothing more than a well-funded propaganda machine of Big Tobacco.

The Tobacco Research Institute, now named the Tobacco Research and Development Center, still claims to explore new uses for the plant. After 50 years of research, they still haven't figured out that the best use for tobacco is killing people.

Now the university has broken ground for a $5.7-million research facility to turn coal and biomass into transportation fuels. UK's press release says that when fully operational, the facility will produce one barrel of fuel per day.

Scientists who have already studied the issue say that developing a technology that utilizes fuels from coal is cost prohibitive. It can be done, but no one could afford it.

Safe cigarette. Clean coal. I detect a pattern here.

The price of electricity in Kentucky is increasing because we burn coal to generate electricity, and coal damages human health and the environment.

Those damages are finally being factored into coal's cost through regulations. If we want a future of affordable energy, we can do what other states are doing, and that's get more of our energy through renewables.

Because the Luddites are in control of my alma mater, may I suggest a few other 19th century research opportunities for the University of Kentucky?

Polio is a really bad disease, I hear. So is smallpox. How about finding a way to eradicate both?

But you can't use vaccines to do it. Vaccinations actually cause diseases, such as autism. And the human papillomavirus vaccine doesn't cure anything, but it does cause premarital sex. Yeah, like we need a shot for that.

However, we're positive that Dino the dinosaur really was Fred and Wilma Flintstone's pet. They're in a museum right here in Kentucky. So settled is the question of The Great Flood that the building of an amusement park, the centerpiece of which will be a genuine replica of Noah's ark, qualifies for state assistance. I can't wait for the Six Flags Over David and Goliath.

We quarrel over when life begins and ignore the very real possibility that we may be closer to its end than its beginning. Fossil fuels cause global warming, and it's getting harder to ignore.

When a company like Solyndra fails, conservatives scream, "We must stop funding solar research. It's a waste of money." But when a coal slurry impoundment pond breaks or an offshore oil well explodes, the message quickly becomes, "We must subsidize the coal and oil industry even more. It creates jobs."

Renewable energy research, that's the realm of other states. Our motto is, "We're busy developing a safe cigarette and clean coal."

We're the 99 percent, but we elect candidates who serve the one percent. In fact, to even run for office, you have to be one of the one percent or be funded by the one percent.

America is in dire straits, and one side blames big business, the other side blames government.

Maybe both sides are right. Maybe big business is our government, just as government is big business. No need to worry about it. Relax, have a smoke. Clean coal's on the way.

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