Methane Wars: A Fable — Chapter Seven

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The Bureaucrat

Human methane collection was real. I had to figure out what was going on. There was more to this than met the eye and there was a lot to meet the eye.

It took nine months but with my background in the methane collection research field I was able to get a job with the Federal Methane Collection Department (FMCD, or FemCad to the masses). I reported to Abe Brown, one of the regional directors out of Minneapolis. My job was to track quotas and exemptions and other statistics. A couple months after I started we were going over numbers in the director’s office. It went something like this.

“Those losers over in the IRS think they have a tough time with tax collections,” he said. “If all I had to do was track down money, I’d be set. Ha! That’s the easy life.”

“I’d think this would be easier,” I said. “No complicated tax codes. Pretty straightforward.”

“Not quite. You think people don’t like paying taxes. See what lengths they’ll go to avoid giving methane. Trying to go off the grid. Fake identifies. Pretending to be their dead grandmothers.”

“Can’t they file exemptions?” I said. “There’s actually quite a long list. You can even file for special exemption.”

“Everybody wants to be an exemption,” said Brown. “The shit people will try to get exempted is a bit unnerving. Woman getting pregnant. Self-inflicted rectal wounds.”

“But wouldn’t more generous exemptions perhaps ease the push back? This isn’t an easy thing to ask.”

“Give them an inch and they’ll take a mile. Look at what people will do with the rules we have now. They’ll try anything. I’ve seen people even try obstructions. Well, that wasn’t pretty and no one was fooled. Probably good they failed the exams. Produced some interesting emergency room visits.

“A lot of the recent attempts at exemption center around infections and irritations or claims that the body is rejecting the collector, which certainly does occur but can usually be corrected. But if you’re trying to get an exemption for an infection that means you’ve giving yourself an infection. That can’t be good. People have died.

“Tracking everyone was actually pretty straightforward until the quotas came along. At first you were exempted or you weren’t. And even though the amount of gases collected was tracked, as long as you gave some volume you were fine.” And so Abe went on.

Then projections were not being met and things changed. I don’t know who set these projections but political promises were in jeopardy. Remember, we were tracking collection. That gave us history and with history we had predictability and with predictability we could set quotas. And so quotas were set.

But if we set quotas based on historical data we would get the same inadequate historical results. The next logical step was to set a quota tailored to the individual. Each individual would be tested over two days to determine what their output really was. Now that was a bureaucratic nightmare that led to some amazing findings.

Deception. Cheating. Lying. No one was taking this seriously and how could you blame them? They were giving just enough to keep us off their back. They weren’t even remotely wearing their collectors at all times. But FemCad took it seriously. They had less of a sense of humor than IRS goons, and to them it was bullshit, a slap in the face to those who wore their collection units dutifully.

If people wanted to play games like that then FemCad would too. So they got the quotas and just a little extra incentive. Took a page from the IRS and criminalized gas collection avoidance. If people didn’t want to take it seriously, FemCad would help them out. Fines for not meeting quotas. Jail time for repeat offenders.

And guess what? Collections skyrocketed. FemCad met projections for the next six months. And the revenue from fines funded research on dietary optimization. They were very close to issuing new guidelines on diet to improve output. The research team thought dietary changes would increase output by fifteen percent if they could roll dietary guidelines out.

Back to my reasons for joining FemCad. Who was behind all this? After a year with FemCad, I still couldn’t find any links back to who was pushing this so hard. FemCad just took marching orders. Orders came from the Feds and they followed them.

I have to admit that I gave up on my quest to find the power behind FemCad. Honestly, FemCad’s IRS-like tactics scared me. My answer-seeking spirit was crushed by fear of FemCad goons. But this spirit was replaced by my growing belief that something that was so vehemently enforced must be resisted. If I felt this way, so did others. I began to think those searching for exemptions were only a small part of the resistance. I needed to get to the front lines to see what was going on. I didn’t have any connections to the street but I did have connections to the methane collection goons and they were very much on the street.

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About joegergen

To evoke a smile. That's all. Author of "Methane Wars: A Fable" and "Lear's Fool" as well as various poems and some these painting things as well.
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