Gumball 3000 supercar rallyEnlarge Photo
If you've not heard of the Gumball 3000 before, it's fairly simple to explain.
Blend hundreds of well-heeled supercar and sports car owners, a few thousand miles of roads, intersperse with fancy hotels and not-always-entirely-legal driving, and serve to the public.
Given those ingredients, you'll forgive us a little skepticism over a press release telling us the Gumball has gone carbon-neutral for this year's event.
Carbon neutrality is also fairly simple to explain, but a little harder to understand.
As you know, driving a car means producing a certain quantity of carbon dioxide--from tailpipe emissions plus the additional energy expended to extract, refine, and transport the fuel you burn, or indirectly (in smaller amounts) from the power stations that charge electric cars.
Carbon dioxide is unpopular right now, because it's a significant component in global warming. Produce too much of it and, in the words of South Park's ski instructor, You're gonna have a bad time.
Making anything carbon-neutral means investing in projects that effectively extract carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, to compensate for whatever you produce.
It could be planting trees, or investing in green energy, or in some cases, buying carbon credits from companies that have fallen under their legally permitted emissions.
In the Gumball 3000's case, it means partnering with CNI UK, a "leading provider in the voluntary carbon offset market", which supports green projects around the world, including hydroelectric dams in Brazil and wind farms in India.
In theory, all the CO2 produced by the rally's supercars will be offset by greener projects somewhere on the other side of the world.
Only it's still all a bit environmentally dubious.
Firstly, carbon neutrality applies only to the cars' tailpipe CO2 outputs, and disregards everything else they're kicking out of their tailpipes--which adds another 20 percent or so.
Then there are the physical risks associated with some of the competitors' occasionally cretinous driving.
Finally, offsetting carbon produced by supercars by a hydroelectric station in Brazil doesn't mean you're sucking CO2 out the air.
It just means you're taking the benefits of the green energy produced in Brazil away from the homes it would normally power and applying it to some supercars.
Or "robbing Peter to pay Paul", as the saying goes.
The concept of offsetting carbon-emitting activities is admirable, of course, but let's not try to dress this up as something it isn't.
The Gumball 3000, which will run for nine days from May 15, is many things--fast, fun, exciting, glamorous, loud, spectacular...
But green? "Carbon neutral" even? Sorry guys, it simply isn't.