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Editorial: Fossil fuel's guilty pleasures and their green alternatives

Flight. Drag racing. Radio controlled vehicles. Monster trucks, motocross... the list goes on and on. What list am I making? A list of activities or hobbies that could be considered by some to be environmentally irresponsible. Why? Let's examine some of them, starting with flight.

Much has been made regarding high-profile travelers, such as Al Gore and Mark Fields of Ford using jets to travel back and forth across the world, or even just our own country. Some believe that using systems already in place, such as by bus, boat or train, is more environmentally responsible. But, that is not where I was thinking of going with this editorial. I am thinking more along the lines of hobbyist flight, for instance ultralights. Some have been in love with the idea of flight for some time, ever since the Wright brothers proved it was possible. You know, environmentally speaking, there might not be anything wrong with it. Consider our past discussions of solar-powered flight and electric powered flight. Don't discount hang-gliding and parachuting. I have never done any of them, but I have heard from many that they offer an experience unlike any other. Also, there has been talk as of late about using biofuels as aircraft fuels.

Click past the break to read more about upcoming green hobbies, and submit your own in the comments!

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How about drag racing? Most of the fastest drag cars are powered by alcohol, and as you probably already know, alcohols can be distilled using environmentally-forgiving methods, using crops such as switchgrass or even algae, which would not harm our food supplies one bit. But, consider electric drag racing. Once thought of as a lunatic fringe, electric drag cars are finding more acceptance these days, even receiving coverage in mainstream automotive magazine such as Car and Driver. Whether mainstream media's coverage is a good thing or not may be debatable, but the fact that people see what is possible from electrics is most certainly a good thing. Check out some videos of electric drag cars and motorcycles!

As a kid growing up, I had a fascination with anything which was radio controlled. I always had electrics, because they were cheaper, until I was able to afford my own. So, I went with nitro-powered airplanes, boats and even a helicopter when I was a teen. I had a good time with them, but I can officially say I'll stick with electrics if I ever get back into it. Why? Cheaper, less to maintain and cleaner, both for the environment and for me! With the invent of modern batteries and fuel cells, perhaps electrics will be the new "exotic" technology, providing better run-times and better performance to boot.

Monster trucks? I'm not so sure about that one, but I can be sure that they run on alcohols like the drag cars do. Could they be run on biofuels? Sure they could, maybe even on biodiesels. Have you seen the power that some of the diesel trucks are making these days, especially when modified with high-output turbo systems and engine controllers? Very impressive stuff, so if you like monster trucks, encourage the drivers to go green if you get the chance. Racing in general seems ready to make the switch to renewable fuels, so it would not be surprising to see this one make that move either.

Ah yes, motocross bikes. If you read this site regularly, you'll know I have a weak spot for anything on two wheels. I must say, though, that my old two-stroke KTM was certainly anything but green. Fortunately for the air we breathe, four-strokes have taken the motocross and dirtbike market in general by storm the last five years or so. And, electric bikes are already here, and I have heard good things about them.

I think I have made a good start on this topic, and if any of you readers are interesting in talking more about it, or listing your own green alternatives to common hobbies, feel free to comment. If there are any good ones, I'd be happy to write about them in future postings.

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