Every once in awhile the American Mustache Institute will step out of our normal paradigm of lunacy and delve into the issues facing people of Mustached American descent. And as our people often drive large, gas-guzzling pick-up trucks and use them to topple ridiculous looking hybrid vehicles, we thought it was time to focus our Monthly Mustache Interview on oil prices. So we found Christopher Steiner of Forbes magazine, who not only writes his quasi-interesting SteinerPost but also recently published the book $20 Per Gallon, which is getting rave reviews across the media landscape. Here’s what Chris had to say.
AMI: Who are you and why should we care?
CS: I’m a senior writer at Forbes magazine and the author of $20 Per Gallon, How the Inevitable Rise in the Price of Gasoline Will Change Our Lives for the Better. But who cares about that? Why you should care: I’m from the future and I own a hoverboard.
AMI: I’ve had the occasion to see you a few times. Clearly, you have the capabilities to live a Mustached American lifestyle but you hide these capabilities in fear, loathing, and shame. Why?
CS: This kind of goes back to the hoverboard. I don’t want to upset the natural order of things here on earth. Either you can ride a hoverboard or you can have a mustache. If you do both, you’ll throw off the space-time continuum.
AMI: You wrote an interesting pamphlet about the potential breakdown in our culture as the price of gasoline rises. Besides making a buck, what compelled you to spend the three weeks doing the research on this?
CS: We’re very proud of the pamphlet. We even bought premium staples to put it together. I wouldn’t use the term “breakdown,” but yes, our society faces giant future challenges in the form of much higher gas prices. The ebbing of oil supplies and the rise in the world’s energy demands will together form the most powerful force of the 21st century. Almost everything in our lives will change.
AMI: Other than making your wife and editors at Forbes hate you, how has the book changed your lifestyle?
CS: There’s more truth in that statement than you know. I’ve brilliantly repaired things with my wife, but my editors all remain somewhat perturbed with me. In the name of conservation, I’ve taken to shaving once every four days. I’m experimenting with whisker mulch in the garden; I’ll let you know how that goes. Other than that, our lives haven’t changed much. For a modern American family, we have what I like to believe is a modest footprint. We live in a 950 square-foot house and have one car, a manual Honda Civic, that we put minimal mileage on (5,000 miles/year). We walk just about everywhere: the grocer, the train, most of our favorite restaurants, the post office and, of course, the lumberyard where, with the help of my hoverboard, I’m able to carry back all the rough-cut cedar a man could want.
AMI: If you had to put your finger on the most fascinating aspect of our oil consuming culture you came across as you researched and wrote the book, what would it be?
CS: A couple of things. First, I’ve been surprised to find how many normal Americans feel they’re being attacked when we talk about a future of higher gasoline prices. They feel their lives are under siege, that people such as myself are bent on making them change. But these people miss the point. I’m not trying to subvert the American way of life. All I’m saying is that change is coming, whether you, me or them — like it or not. It’s not a lobbying effort, it’s reality. We’re facing a future of higher oil demand and less oil supply. The price has to go up.
Secondly, I was fascinated to learn that the fertilizer that grows most of our food is made wholly from energy, usually natural gas. In this country, we like to talk about our addiction to foreign oil. Sure, but what about our addiction to foreign fertilizer? We import 80% of our fertilizer, most of it from places such as Venezuela, Qatar and Mexico. What happens when those countries, some of whom are run by some mustache-sporting men who don’t care much for the USA, start hoarding their supplies or their levels of gas production start to wane? We’re going to need a few million truckloads of manure to overcome that kind of dependency. There are ways around this problem that don’t involve cow poop, however. American entrepreneurs are developing ways to create fertilizer from the hydrogen in water plus the nitrogen in our atmosphere right now (using energy from wind turbines), but their methods aren’t very applicable at gasoline prices of $2.85 per gallon. But it won’t take much, just a few bucks more, to usher in change for our farms — change that will actually keep our food supply more secure.
AMI: If you had to put your finger on the most astounding mustache in history or Pamela Anderson, which would you choose and why?
CS: Easy: The mustache. Pam is starting to show her age. An old mustache only goes gray, which, to me, adds an element of class and nuance that Tommy Lee just can’t understand. Kid Rock gets it, however.
AMI: So you’ve talked to a lot of people as a smut-junky for Forbes. What’s been the most interesting experience?
CS: Difficult question to answer. But if I had to pick the most interesting day I’ve spent on assignment, it was one I spent with two gentlemen by the names of Orion Briney and Jeremy Fisher. Both of them sport mustaches (Briney a beard). If you didn’t know from their serendipitous last names, these guys are fishermen. They ply some of the weirdest waters for some of the weirdest fish that exist on this planet. Briney and Fisher stalk Asian bighead carp in the Illinois River. The morning we went out, we caught 10,000 pounds of the fish in about three hours. That bounty ended up all over North America within a matter of days, getting shipped to Asian markets from Toronto to Los Angeles.
What makes this story extra weird is that those fish don’t even belong in the Illinois, they don’t even belong in this Hemisphere. They’re invasive, native to big Chinese rivers such as the Yangtze. Southern catfish farmers brought them here two decades ago to help keep their ponds clean, but some of the fish got into the Mississippi in the 1995 floods and they’ve trashed dozens of ecosystems, including those of the southern part of the Missouri river and the whole of the Illinois River, since they got into the wild. They’re terribly violent and aggressive fish. They jump high out of the water at approaching boats and, because they can go more than 50 pounds, they can knock people out of boats and render them unconscious in the water. Water skiing has all but disappeared on much of the Illinois.
Seeing all of this exotic madness first hand, right here in my home state, was bizarre and fascinating.
AMI: You’re reportedly into the whole skiing, snowboarding, I’m a hiker so you should like me deal. Why don’t we see more people of Mustached American descent on the slopes?
CS: There’s actually been an explosion of mustached skiers in the Rockies. A couple prominent ski resorts recently banned beards for their on-slope employees (I am going to decline to name which mountains, but it’s easy to figure out if you’re familiar with Google). So, as a protest, a good hunk of the lift operators, ski patrollers and ski instructors grew mustaches. Last winter, I was at a party full of ski-industry people in Utah and I couldn’t get over how many people were sporting ‘staches. It all made sense, of course, when somebody explained. So there’s yet another use for the mustache: tool of passive protest.
AMI: So as you know we are currently seeking nominations for the “Robert Goulet Memorial Mustached American of the Year.” In your mind, who’s deserving?
CS: Two words: Kyle Orton.
AMI: Moving forward, how will you demonstrate your appreciation for Mustached Americans? How can you do your part to help our way of life?
CS: What I’m going to do is very simple. I clearly should have done more in my current book to address how higher gasoline prices will affect the mustached portion of our population. The future holds a lot of uncertainty for all of us, and it will be no different for those carrying a lightweight brush of whiskers on their upper lips. We can’t neglect the future of the mustache and where its adherents may be headed. So in my next book, I plan to devote some room—probably half of the book, at least—to the issue at hand, whatever that may be, and how it relates to the lives of our mustached brothers (and sisters).