Environment Technology

Rocket Racing League to leave environmentalists fuming?

The idea of a rocket racing league all sounds amazingly futuristic. And given our current grasp of aerospace technology, entirely possible, too. However, I think the Rocket Racing League will either struggle to get off the ground, or all go up in smoke — and in a very literal sense…

The idea of a rocket racing league all sounds amazingly futuristic. And given our current grasp of aerospace technology, entirely possible, too. However, I think the Rocket Racing League will either struggle to get off the ground, or all go up in smoke — and in a very literal sense…

rocket powered aircraft

Any kind of motor sport is pretty much a guaranteed environmental anathema, what with all those powerful yet energy inefficient engines belching out fumes into the air. For their part, Honda have been trying to paint themselves as the very green and responsible car company. But aircraft are on a totally different level when it comes to pollution:

“Pollution from aircraft is set to grow so rapidly that all homeowners, car drivers and businesses will have to reduce their carbon dioxide output to zero for levels to remain safe, a new study warned today.”

That’s the findings from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research.

Despite fuel economy being at the top of the business agenda for all airline operators, getting aeroplanes airborne and to their desired location is still very expensive, both in material costs and to the environment.

But motor sports are often less concerned about fuel economy and more about power. Yes, fuel economy plays it’s part, but getting the most aeronautical miles from your aviation fuel does not a winner maketh.

On a personal note, it’s an inspiring idea, which harks back to the early 20th century, where similar air-sea races inspired whole generations of people. Who knows what engineering and technological innovations might arise from the competition, in the same way F1 racing often pioneers technologies that then find their way into domestic automotive designs.

But I do have to wonder if the guys behind the planned Rocket Racing League have given enough thought to the environmental impact of their idea and how people might react.

So many businesses are now getting wise to environmental issues and how being seen to be green (even if not quite being green) can have a huge impact on their brand perception and / or success. In turn, the public are starting to make purchasing decisions based around the environmental consequences of their buying habits, and on moral & ethical grounds.

With this as a backdrop, how does the Rocket Racing League go about making a case for their new sport, I wonder. Their business case might be sound, but their environmental credentials might require much more scrutiny…

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By Wayne Smallman

Wayne is the man behind the Blah, Blah! Technology website, and the creator of the Under Cloud, a digital research assistant for journalists and academics.

2 replies on “Rocket Racing League to leave environmentalists fuming?”

Well, as an endurance rally co-driver, I wish them luck! We are one of the very few diesel cars who enter the Endurance events, and next year hope to be running on biodiesel. (See us on the Lombard Rally 6th-9th November — From Harrogate it started). It has now become a standing joke about our failure to fill up the car…

The point is though, that if you start taking away everything that is fun, because our poxy amount of carbon emissions could further harm a planet being damaged in many more ways by government and major industries who throw away the earth’s resources seemingly thinking they are theirs to squander, the human race is doomed.

As is innovation.

In this country (UK), I am surrounded by people with fantastic, innovative, ingenious ideas to reduce, reuse and recycle. The practicalities of it are such that it becomes impossible to do anything as a consumer except squander our minimal resources. For example:

  • Getting through the bureaucratic paper mountain to start an horticultural salvage yard when surrounded by farms full of potentially great garden items that the farmers can’t afford to tip;
  • Explaining to the ‘bouncers’ at the tip that this monitor / printer / TV / fridge works brilliantly if someone could give it a home and that it MUSTN’T go into landfill;
  • Putting solar panels on your roof (well, we’ll more than likely say you don’t need planning permission at all, but could you just fill out this 18 page planning application anyway with full architect’s drawings);
  • You want a what in your house / garden? No, no, no, you can’t have a methane digester / reed bed / turbine in the stream;
  • Trying to get the new energy efficiency grant to BRING THE 4 free energy efficient light bulbs with them when they visit rather than post them;

The list goes on.

Meanwhile, I continue my campaign to name and shame public sector and charities that leave their lights on at evenings and weekends, as should all of you. It isn’t about security — haven’t you seen Forrest Gump?

If those lights had been ON in the building opposite, he’d never have spotted the Watergate guys. Phone your council and demand an explanation, and an audit of the number of units electricity they use per employee to compare to a cash-strapped home office user.

In the meantime, let us poor souls have some fun!

Hi Lindsey and thanks for the great comment and the rants on local government, which wouldn’t have been out of place on my waste packaging rant!

Far from trying to take the fun out of the rocket racing, I’m merely pointing out that of all the ways and different directions motor sport can be taken, using jet-powered aircraft is by far the most environmentally damaging.

Speaking of biodiesel, I saw something a couple of years ago about an experimental fixed propeller aircraft using biodiesel.

Once they they solve the problems associated with biodiesel (principally the false economy conundrum, which I think will come from the refinement end), maybe they’ll figure out a way of putting the stuff into F1 cars and jet aircraft.

Thanks again, great comment!

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