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by Henry "Hank" Heller, 9/29/00

Dc: This is DCR, news meant for amusement. It's time for a special "news you can use" feature of our show, a helpful hint from Hank!

(music: theme)

Hank: Hi! Henry Heller Here with another Helpful Hint for your hearth and home. Where's my helper?

Helper: Right here, Hank!

Hank: OK... we got a letter from Phillip Topitoff of Blocking-on-the-Green, England. He writes... "Sir, is there any way an ordinary bloke of average intelligence could make his own petrol at home, purely for use in one's own vehicle." Well, Mr. Topitoff, there are all sorts of rules and regulations about traffic in crude oil and safety procedures in residential areas that would be an obstacle to refining oil into gasoline in your home, making it not only dangerous but illegal and expensive to boot. But... if we disregard all of those minor inconveniences, there IS a simple way to do the very thing you're asking about. Here's how.
First, you want to paddle out into the shipping lanes and move around the various bouys and markers that tell the oil tankers how to get to the refinery. Changing them so that at least one of the tankers beaches itself conveniently close to your home. My assistant has already done that bit of preparation, haven't you?

Helper: Yes, Hank!

Hank: Wow, what a mess you are. Is that tanker...?

Helper: Should be here any minute.

Hank: OK. While we wait, you want to bring together a few simple tools. A sledgehammer, a chisel, a tube with open/close valve on it, a fifty gallon drum, a heat source, a tall stack, and various other implements.

Helper: (off mic) Here it comes!

(sfx: tanker whistle)

Hank: You'll want to stand back a bit since it's hard to control exactly where the oil tanker will run aground.

(sfx: terrible smashing and crashing, grinds to a halt)

Wow, looks like we got a nice big one. And we're in luck. It came right through the garage wall so we can use the workbench for our home refinery. And the hull is basically intact...

(sfx: crew hubub off mic)

And there doesn't seem to be much loss of life. Just an angry crew and a captain who's going to have a lot of paperwork to fill out. That gives you the time you need to get started here. Where's my assistant?

Helper: Here, Hank!

Hank: All right, then. Hold the chisel up against the hull and I'll use the sledgehammer to make an opening. Hang on.

(sfx: big metallic bang)

Helper: Ow!

Hank: Just another big swing and we ought to be through! Remember to use a rubber coated sledge hammer, so you don't strike any sparks which could set the tanker on fire.

(sfx: big metallic bang)
(sfx: gushing oil)

There we go! Now we shove the tube with the valve connected... shove that into the opening like this...

(sfx: gushing oil stops)

There! Now we're looking good. A little oily, though. You could have a problem with Audobon Society volunteers coming through wanting to scrub you down and hose you off. Just explain to them politely that you're not an endangered waterfowl... you're an enterprising citizen with work to do!

Helper: What next?

Hank: Next, you hook a whole bunch of pipes up to your fifty gallon drum, making a tall chimney with lots of room for the vapors to rise. Start your heat source underneath, remembering again not to set the oil or the tanker on fire. You open some valves and siphon off the accumulation at different levels so you can have kerosene, heating oil, a little bit of jet fuel, and of course, gasoline! And don't forget to light the torch at the top for some of the refuse to burn off!

Helper: And Hank, what about the tanker?

Hank: That? The Coast Guard will eventually drag it out to sea and sink it. But it'll take 'em a while, so fill up as many containers as possible to keep your little home refinery going for a few weeks or months or maybe even years.

(music: theme back in)

And all that time while your neighbors are paying through the nose for their gasoline, you'll have plenty of fuel for just pennies a gallon, even when you consider the cost of rebuilding the garage wall and the landscaping you'll have to do.

Helper: Gosh, I never would have thought you could do this at home.

Hank: That's a helpful hint from me, Henry Heller. Next time, we'll take a look at electrical generation. Which method translates best to your basement, coal or nuclear? Until then, remember, you CAN do it yourself!


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