By on February 14, 2011

Nothing makes this bloggers day like finding a story that highlights how the world of cars interacts with every facet of our national life… and few stories illustrate the universal impact of cars and fuels like the Atlantic’s recent piece on one man’s attempt to turn Afghanistan’s opium poppy crop into biodiesel. The plan was to help Afghanistan’s poorest farmers use poppy seeds to create biodiesel, but along the way the plan ran into the challenges of diplomacy, bureaucracy, foreign occupation, environmental issues and cultural conflict. In fact, all of the complexity and struggle involved with the military occupation of a foreign country come out in this fascinating piece, which begins:

Back in the fall of 2008, Michael Bester and a business partner, both Army veterans doing contract work in Afghanistan, hit on the equivalent of the counterinsurgency’s trifecta: a way to improve the lives of ordinary Afghans, eliminate the illegal opium trade, and take the Taliban’s money. “We had been in villages where children were dying because they didn’t have proper medicine, because they didn’t have refrigerators,” Bester told me. Light up the villages, and perhaps you could empower Afghans to resist the Taliban. And the fuel? Most any feedstock would work, but one compelling option was the ubiquitous poppies that stoke the Taliban’s lucrative drug trade. Why not turn them into biodiesel instead?

Make diesel, not drugs! Read the whole thing here.

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7 Comments on “Regular, Premium, or… Opium?...”


  • avatar
    stuki

    If nothing else, at least the gas huffers get to mix up their highs a bit.

  • avatar
    sitting@home

    And when the cop pulls you over and says he can smell drugs, you just claim it’s coming out the tailpipe.

  • avatar
    RGS920

    Hence a wise general makes a point of foraging on the enemy.
    One cartload of the enemy’s provisions is equivalent to twenty of one’s own, and likewise
    a single picul of his provender is equivalent to twenty from one’s own store.

    Sun Tzu – The Art of War

  • avatar
    M 1

    Hard to see how this is TTAC-relevant, but interesting nonetheless.

    I do wonder why the Taliban wouldn’t just take control of the biodiesel operations. I mean, it isn’t like they’re into the opium trade simply because it’s illegal/evil/bad-mm-kay … it’s a financial thing. So if you offer the Afghani farmers an alternative, what’s to keep them from winding up in the same boat?

    • 0 avatar
      ClutchCarGo

      What changes with a program like this is that the biodiesel is more valuable locally while the opium has value only when exported, with much of the marked up profits going to those in the export trade, i.e. the Taliban. Exporting biodiesel is more difficult and not as profitable.

    • 0 avatar
      M 1

      Interesting point. I suppose there is also the possibility that the US forces would be buying much of the biodiesel for the near future, probably/hopefully making it more difficult for the Taliban types to get into the mix.

  • avatar
    amosyuki

    I am a bit confused about this.


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