Green Weenie of the Week: Barbecue Deniers

I recall many years ago when the smog police in Los Angeles actually contemplated regulating—and perhaps even banning—backyard barbecues. A bunch of us printed up bumper stickers that we passed out at a meeting of the South Coast Air Quality Management District that said: “Use a Barbecue, Go To Jail!” (The smog police eventually backed down, but only after the BBQ industry figured out how to reformulate lighter fluid to evaporate less, along with the well, duh directions that now say “light immediately.”)

But that still leaves the carbon footprint of all those briquettes. Leave it to Mother Jones to deprecate the backyard grill on precisely these grounds. Why all of us master grillers combined equal a whole coal-fired power plant!

As my colleague Kiera Butler wrote about here, even the “cleanest” gas grills emit pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every hour they’re used. So how many emissions can we expect from dinner barbecues on the 4th?

Roughly eighty percent of American households own barbecues or smokers, according to the Hearth, Patio, and Barbecue Association. Let’s say all 92.5 million of them decide to grill on Saturday. A 2013 study by HPBA found that 61 percent of users opted for gas grills, 42 percent for charcoal, and 10 percent for electric (some respondents had multiple grills). If that reflected all households across the United States, and each household used its grill for an hour on the 4th of July, then we’d get a calculation like this:

(56.425M gas grills*5.6 pounds of CO2) + (38.85M charcoal grills*11 pounds CO2) + (9.25M electric grills*15 pounds CO2 ) = 882 million pounds of CO2.

That’s roughly as many emissions as burning 2145 railcars of coal, or running one coal-fired power plant for a month.

Well raise my rent. Meanwhile, in other News You Can Use, a new study from Texas A & M concludes that beef brisket is good for you:

If you live in Texas, you probably don’t need another reason to eat more beef brisket, but researchers at Texas A&M just gave you one: it’s healthy. Brisket has a high level of oleic acid which regulates cholesterol levels, according to Dr. Stephen Smith, a professor in the animal science department at Texas A&M.

Oleic acid is an omega-9 fatty acid which helps reduce the risk of heart disease by raising your levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), known as “good” cholesterol. Oleic acid also has the added benefit of lowering low-density lipoprotein (LDL), known as “bad” cholesterol.

That acid, according to Smith, is also found in canola oil and olive oil. The professor told AgriLife Today that “Ground beef is not going to kill you. When you take the beef out of fat, it reduces LDL, but also reduces HDL. Our studies have shown that fat is a very important component of beef.”

So there you have it: eat more brisket for your health this Labor Day weekend.

By why limit brisket to Labor Day? I say have it every week. Take no chances.

By the way, I hear our Green Weenies taste great grilled over charcoal.