News and views on motorsports

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Bio-Fuels, Environment And Racing

Far more serious than the Hamil-shit abuse headlines is the serious threat of global warming that is facing our planet. And first off, let me start by saying that unlike some bloggers, I actually believe that global warming is a huge threat. Some people may say that scientists have been crying wolf about a whole range of environmental issues in the past (remember that one about the next ice age), well in this case even if you can understand the statistical data about this issue, surely you can feel the effects daily.

I remember flying over Greenland once during a flight from London to Los Angeles. It was July and I remember looking at the all-white landscape. Apparently, there is no more ice in Greenland in summer these days. Glaciers in the Himalayas are melting and causing floods. Increased Hurricane and Typhoon activities. Not to mention the Monsoons in South East Asia growing in ferocity and frequency. If you still can't see it then you're as delusional as that idiot sitting in the White House.

So, global warming and the environment being the zeitgeist, Mad Max and by extension, the FIA are getting in on the act. Bio-fuels are set to make its debut sometime after 2011 in Formula 1 to prop up its image as some kind of happy chirpy green friendly activity. I'm a racing fan and I'm concerned about the environment but there is no fucking way that I think Formula 1 should be a green activity. Some sense of fun should remain and these are not necessarily green.

Witness also Audi and Peugeot entering diesel powered cars and winning in Le Mans. Turbo diesels are also slowly entering the touring car championships. Slowly, these oil burners will include greater bio-mass (is that the right term) content.

To me, the argument for bio-fuels have always been spurious. Given the amount of carbon already in the atmosphere, shouldn't we be working to reduce it? The argument for bio-fuels is that since it is derives from plants this ensures that carbon released from the burning of these fuels are offset by the carbon they absorb whilst still alive. As far as I can make it, this just keeps carbon levels constant. Does it really reduce (as we should be doing) the amount of carbon in the air?

And now some scientists are saying that bio-fuels are making things even worse. They argue that the process of producing these bio-fuels causes its own emissions. In addition, croplands scrubs off far less carbon from the atmosphere than the rain forests (and scrublands) that they replace. All in all, this results in a worsening situation. Well duh, isn't that obvious in the first place?

Here in Malaysia, I am driven to tears every single time I see large swathes of rain forest being cut down to be exported for timber then replaced by palm oil plantations raised to meet the expected demand for yet more bio-fuels. Worse still are rain forests cut down for the sake for property development by "developers." Sure, developers great at developing cronies bank balances. And folks at the FIA are hoping to drive forward these destructive activities by making Formula 1 a showcase.

And yet, there is an alternative. It lies with the first element in the periodic table, the first that came into existence merely milliseconds after the Big Bang that created our universe. Yes, folks, it lies with that simplest of atoms, hydrogen. High school chemistry teaches us that the combustion of this element produces a by product. Namely, H20 or plain water to you and me. Why isn't this being touted as the future of our energy needs?

Oi, wake up. Hydrogen being the simplest of atoms is also the most common in the universe. We are made of bloody hydrogen. The stars run on these. The universe is filled with it. There are clouds of it (some of which are light years in size) in and around our galaxy and throughout the universe. Sea water is made of it. Here's the greatest of all things: WE CAN NEVER RUN OUT OF HYDROGEN! Never, never, ever! It is literally impossible to run out of it. Why are we still fighting wars over fossil fuels when all the world's energy needs can be met by these?

Somehow, the car manufacturers and others have been creating this popular perception that hydrogen means running cars on expensive fuels cells and vacuum cleaner like electric motors. Bullshit. BMW have already proven that ordinary petrol engines like the kind you and I use today can easily (and cost effectively) be converted to burn hydrogen. Yes, even the very engine you use to make the school and office run can be converted. Today.

Imagine that. Your 20 year old car converted to run on the most common element in the universe. Would you ever need to worry about fuel consumption? And since it exhausts water, would you ever need to worry about the environment? The answer to both is hell no. You would rev your high performance VTEC engine to the redline every single time. In fact, there wouldn't be any need for "economy" vehicles. Every single car on the road can be a high performance car. How great would that be right? Second hand car prices would rise enormously as people discover that these can still be used perhaps for ages to come.

Yes, I know the current problems. The hydrogen storage is a problem since it needs to be in liquid form. The production of hydrogen right now is still relatively inefficient and in many cases still rely on fossil fuels. But a start needs to be made. And eventually, we will all need to be running on hydrogen for the good of the planet and future generations.

So why doesn't Formula 1 take the lead right now? Why the need for stupid turbo diesel engines? Fuel storage? Come on what a lame excuse. Once upon a time (throughout the 80s and early 90s), teams had to deal with some seriously hazardous "rocket fuel" that powered Formula 1 engines. I am certain processes and technologies have advanced leaps and bounds since then to make the handling of liquid hydrogen safer.

If Mad Max Mosley really wants to project a green image (and a more practical one at that) then he should really consider hydrogen fuels. Kinetic energy recovery systems, bio-fuels are strictly temporary measures that will not solve the atmospheric problems of the planet. For a true and permanent solution, a quantum leap is required. And there already exists one that can make use of current vehicle and engine technologies.

Racism And Amusement

The Hamil-shit has been making headlines once again. Hasn't the world had enough of this idiot? And as you probably know he invades the headlines once more because some people somewhere decided he is a victim of racist abuse.

Before I launch into that, let me just say that as an South East Asian who lived in England for many years, I too, did suffer my fair share of racist abuse. This can range from looks of discrimination or in one case of a drunk dumb-ass white trash Geordie being called a fucking stinking chop suey whilst simply minding my own business. Yes, some white folk can be fucking assholes but hey, these are not exclusive to caucasians. I have to admit, that lots of Asians are bloody racists as well. And as I have emphasised, I said some.

The point of course is that no matter what race or colour there will be assholes among them. Prior to the so-called "racial abuse" in Valencia in the past weeks, there were some amusing banners floating about in the stands. My personal favourite read something like: Hey Hamilton, does daddy still help you pee? Personally, I think his father still does.

But now along comes another bunch of fans making sweeping statements about Hamil-shit and more seriously, his ilk. To me, comments specifically targetted at a person is fair enough. Sweeping statements about the person's race or colour, bete noir.

And this now spoils the whole thing doesn't it? Now, every single "abusive" (though enormously funny) comments about this punk will be viewed as some sort of racial abuse. You can bet the partisan British press and the McLaren Mercedes PR machine will make it so.

And I get the feeling that the FIA themselves are not comfortable with their little darling (who they hope can banked upon to promote their precious Formula 1 around the world) the butt of jokes (whether these be racist in nature or otherwise). And the knee jerk reaction now will be a crackdown on all banners that do not read "I love Hamilton."

Today's headlines reports of racial abuse leading back to Shanghai last year. This is reported by none other than Hamil-shit's father (who else?). But will anyone dare to make amusing comments about this?