Proving that even bloggers can benefit from recycling of resources, to get me through the holiday season I'm posting an article I wrote long ago. Boy, things have changed. And yet, they've stayed the same...
My dad wasn’t a farmer though he very much wanted to be. He housed us on one acre of garden and two of farm and populated his lands with the Guinness World Record’s smallest herd of cows. Being the conscientious cocky that he was, he installed an electric fence to discourage the unrulier elements of the Gang of Three from acting on dreams of greener pastures.
One chilly morn, I trudged bleary-eyed and groggy through the gap in the hedge to deliver the beasts their daily hay. As I dumped the lucerne over the fence, I suffered a barbaric blow to the base of my spine. Screaming in agony, I whipped around to curse my elder brother for assaulting me. I might have added “again.” Not sure.
To my dismay, the space that should have accommodated his demonic form was bare. Had he finally been raptured downwards by a vengeful god for his beastly misdeeds, as I had so often wished?
Eventually, I realised I had touched the electric fence. The cows, themselves having suffered the torment of the wire many times, chomped away contentedly without so much as a moo in sympathy. Did I detect, rather, a hint of sardonic amusement in those sinkhole eyes?
The point is, things weren’t what they’d seemed. Which brings me, logically, to cycling.
It is the pin-up boy of environmentally-friendly pursuits. But it turns out that professional cycling is the most polluting of all sports.
The Tour de France attracts 12 to 15 million spectators, and it’s these enviro-bandits who are the problem. On TV the baddies look innocent enough, waving flags and bouncing on their toes in excitement as the peloton swooshes past in a millisecond blur of rainbow lycra and body odour.
But then they hitch houses to the back of their ageing Renaults and Peugeots and wallow about the Pyrenees in low gear belching poisonous clouds of CO2 over the mountain meadows, laying waste to wildflowers and smothering eagles on the wing.
To be sure, when a spectator plants his foot in the Alps, a dugong goes belly-up in Australia.
F1, on the other hand, is leading the environmental charge from the front. In 2014, the sport introduced rules that demanded a 33 percent fuel saving. If Toyota announced a new Camry that used 33 percent less fuel than the last one, they’d be branded environmental heroes.
The trick is that engineers have matched a small petrol-burning engine to two energy recovery systems to create a hybrid system that is relevant to the motoring industry. In two seasons of competition, the beardy-weirdies have raised the thermal efficiency of the internal combustion engine from 30 percent to 45 percent. By the end of 2016, they will achieve 50 percent.
In other words, the last two years of development has achieved 50 percent as much as the previous one hundred and twenty.
The statistics testify to the value of competition as a driver of innovation. It’s just this kind of thinking that will propel the species over the line if anything will. Hand the present to the engineers and let them forge the future out on the track, I say.
The race is well and truly on to be first into the mass market with this cutting-edge tech. And that’s a good thing because the sooner cycling fans can ditch their eagle-smothering wildflower murderers for F1-derived enviro-wagons the better. We’ll all breathe a little easier, and perhaps, then, cycling will become what it now only seems to be.