Good Intentions

The ArcPoint story begins with a handful of environmental thinkers. This group of scientists, engineers, politicians, and businessmen saw the inherent dangers in a future energy crisis. Radical environmentalists were making statements which were lofty and sensible on their surface. To carry out such plans, however, was impractical. Planes, trains, and automobiles would never be self-powered by wind or solar energy. If you eliminate fossil fuels too early, you won’t have energy to build solar panels and wind turbines.

What this group feared was a knee-jerk reaction by the masses against environmental restrictions. Locking doors to hungry people will someday lead to looting. The world needed clean, abundant, sustainable portable energy.

Grid-based energy was easy. Connect the needs of many to a source of abundance via a distribution network. Solar and wind farms could replace hydro-electric dams and coal-fired power plants. But what about the many items in our world that can’t remain plugged in or be battery operated?

After years of discussion, the group focused on one solution—bio-fuel. They formed a non-profit organization to create a solution. It had to be environmentally responsible, sustainable, and economically feasible. They called it the Renewable Energy Development Consortium, aka the RED-C.

The acronym was brilliant. They planned for this company to be the crossing point between slavery to fossil fuels and the freedom of abundance. That meant it had to be available to everyone. Every country, tribe, and individual. Grid dependent systems were often controlled by a small handful of individuals, which could be corporate executives or maniacal dictators.

Bio-fuel from small plants—such as soy, corn, or rapeseed—requires large plantings and particular growing conditions. But trees—such as oil palm, jatropha, and tamanu—are also used to produce bio-fuel, and can be grown as individual plants. The RED-C focused on developing a tree specifically designed to produce high oil yield per acre. It needed to survive in severe growing conditions, whether that be drought, salt, cold or heat. The oil it produced had to burn clean and require very little refinement.

There was one more requirement—it had to be non-invasive. They didn’t want to produce another crabgrass, kudzu, or Asian carp. Their solution was to produce a rootstock, not a plant. Wherever this rootstock went in the world, that locality could graft its own native tree to it. The rootstock would simply improve yield and quality of the grafted-on variety. Seeds from the hybrid tree could be easily contained, reducing spread. Grass seed used for bio-fuel could not.

This was an American idea, but was intended to have world-wide appeal. The oil embargo of 1973 sparked the discussion—the need for energy independence. The attack on 9/11 created the urgency—freedom from radicalism. The RED-C wanted to satisfy the worlds energy hunger, without prejudice or greed. But they also wanted to make a profit, or the endeavor would not be sustainable.

Every time crude oil prices topped $100 per barrel, the RED-C got an influx of research money. They wouldn’t accept investment capital, but never turned down donations to their efforts. But when common horticultural practices didn’t produce results, major donors lost enthusiasm. The RED-C got desperate and turned to genetic engineering. When they created a drought-tolerant oil palm tree, the funding returned. The genetic engineers were given full freedom to develop whatever they could. The environmentalists looked the other way, wanting only veto power over anything hazardous.

The engineers saw the Acacia tree as having the best characteristics as a genetic base. They dubbed their project the Acacia Root Construct, only because of the acronym—ARC—in reference to the rainbow. This gift to mankind would be for every color of skin. As they spliced in various gene sequences, they identified each iteration like computer software, with the base Acacia being ARC 1.0. Testing continued through ARC 1.87 before they took the best results for planting.

Years went by, until ARC 3.1 through 3.18 were ready for planting in real soil. Land was obtained in the Mojave Desert, and a dozen of each were planted using various—but minimal—soil amendments. The plants were tested, altered, reproduced, and discarded. Each change was given a different point designation. The plantings were scattered, the iterations numerous. One day, a researcher in the field got confused and asked the question, “We are looking for ARC point what?” In no time, the entire orchard—with its hundreds of this-point-that’s—was simply called, the ArcPoint trees.

By the time they reached ARC 5.0, crude oil prices collapsed. Other countries had their own bio-fuel pursuits. America had a glut of oil and natural gas. Too many people were fearful of genetically modified organisms. Political and financial systems were in chaos.

The Renewable Energy Development Consortium wanted to change the world. It changed without them.