Canadian Beer Drinkers Threaten Environment

By David L. Brown

Well, now we know. According to a researcher at the University of Alberta, Canadian beer drinkers may be behind dangerous climate change. (Warning: The following, while completely true and factual, may contain irony and even vague hints of sarcasm.)

According to the current issue of New Scientist magazine (subscription required):

Getting rid of vintage “beer fridges” – secondary fridges which many North American and Australian homes boast – could have a significant impact on household greenhouse gas emissions, suggests a new study.

Beer fridges are additional fridges that are generally used to keep beer and other drinks cold on top of a household’s primary fridge for food. One in three Canadian households has a second fridge, many of which are aging, energy-guzzling models, according to Denise Young…

Young suggests that getting rid of older models, in Canada at least, would have an impact on energy usage. Her study analyses industry data and the results of a national survey to look at the environmental effects of having beer fridges in Canada.

We seem to be seeing a steady stream of bad news about the environment from our frozen neighbor to the north. For example, I remember someone suggesting that emanations of moose gas are a significant source of methane. And of course we know that the Arctic ice cap is melting, polar bears are drowning, and tundra is thawing.

What’s going on up there, anyway? Don’t those people realize the trouble they might be causing for the rest of us? It’s bad enough that they have introduced the game of hockey to otherwise civilized locales. (Even here in my town of Rio Rancho, New Mexico we have a professional hockey team called the Scorpions. Imagine, ice hockey in the desert!) And now to find out that all that 24/7 beer drinking is messing up the environment is almost the last straw if you ask me.

The survey, commissioned by the government agency Natural Resources Canada, revealed that 30 percent of Canadian households have two or more refrigerators, many of which are older models that are kept after the household buys a newer model as their primary refrigerator. Using a second fridge to cool those yummy cans and bottles of Labatts Blue and Moosehead means more demand for electricity, and the situation is even worse when the second fridge is an older model as is often the case. According to the New Scientist piece:

The Canadian Appliance Manufacturers Association estimates that typical 1985 refrigerator models use 1060 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of energy per year, while a 1975 model uses 1580 kWh per year. In contrast, more recent and energy-efficient models can use as little as 380 kWh per year.

The survey shows that in 2003 about 65% of beer fridges were more than 10 years old. About 30% were at least twice that age.

Using the survey’s information on the distribution of beer fridges and the data on energy consumption, Young calculated that the 65% of beer fridges that are 10 years or older consume 1165.7 million kWh of energy each year – roughly equivalent to the annual consumption of 100,000 average US suburban homes.

By abandoning beer fridges altogether, Canada’s 11.5 million households could save 3500 million kWh each year, says Young.

What I don’t understand is why Canadians need refrigerators at all. Up there in the Land of Eternal Winter, why don’t they just set food and drinks outside their igloos and let Nature take Her course? Then all they would have to do is pop out the front door to enjoy a frosty drink or frozen snack.

Well, on second thought, I suppose that would create more problems by tempting the native wildlife. Who can imagine what might happen if a thirsty grizzly bear should drink up an entire week’s supply of Molson Golden Ale? Or how a wolverine would react after consuming a family-sized box of frozen Little Debbie Snack Cakes? It wouldn’t be a pretty picture, I’m sure—although I am certain that Disney could make an entertaining animated film on this theme, spinning off action figures, clothing items, fast food tie-ins and video games to generate several billion dollars in revenue.

Before that happens (shudder), let’s hope those crazy Canadians can get their act together, soon! The future of the world might be hanging in the balance.

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