For more then six decades now, we’ve had the wonderful opportunity to get out in the winter seasons and to enjoy what good old Mother Nature brought to us in the form of snow. Some selected the silent sports of skiing, snowshoeing or simply walking into the woods and reveling in the solitude. Others wanted the more vigorous activities that required a motorized conveyance to allow travel over the snow. Even a few folks were satisfied to use their furry friends to drag them across the frozen tundra. Regardless of which activity we selected, we seemed to get along with each other. Occasionally one may conflict with another but, overall, we were able to live in harmony.
In recent months, however, things are changing rapidly. If we look a bit deeper as to why, we might find that our recreational choices are in jeopardy and soon may no longer be available to us — at least those of us who prefer motorized recreation. At the risk of igniting a political firestorm, I feel compelled to relate what I’ve been able to discern from recent conversations with folks professed to be in the know. I can say without any hesitation whatsoever that if any of it is true, it isn’t going to be good for us!
Long before the election snafu, those active in organized snowmobile groups had received advanced warnings that things were not going well in the recreation industry. Some of the issues pertained to ongoing concerns dealing with restrictions and requirements in the manufacturing process as set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), but many also had reached beyond those boundaries and could, if implemented, effect our lives in other ways as well.
For example, the EPA’s efforts to increase the amount of ethanol added into unleaded fuel above the 10% limit has been a serious concern for several years because of some demands on the recreation community. Despite a good many studies, testing and on-the-ground operations, this change can have grave consequences. Unless the product is engineered to operate on E-15 or up to and including E-85 as most of the automotive industry has done, the typical combustion engine will only run for a short time before catastrophic seizures or possible detonation occurs.
Engines used in motorcycles, snowmobiles, marine applications, chainsaws and almost any other equipment that utilizes a small gasoline engine will suffer severe damage by using any fuel with more than 10% ethanol. The only solution to such a dilemma was to eliminate the blender pumps where possible to prevent fuels with a higher than 10% amount from remaining in the hose and being dispensed along with the desired fuel.
But there are other radical proposals being considered that, if accepted and set into motion, could seriously impact and possibly spell the doom of motorized recreation. Just prior to Christmas this past year, President-elect Joe Biden once again stated publicly that under his administration he will do all in his power to create a zero emissions footprint in the United States and bring back serious discussions about global warming and climate change. He has both promised to keep the coal miners in business but also to shut down the mines. He has emphatically stated he would not ban fracking, only to later say just the opposite. So where do we stand? I only mention this because without the fossil fuels all we will have is the stuff made from corn — and we all know what will happen then.
A zero emissions atmosphere means no oil and no fuel. Imagine what our lives will be like without petroleum and the several items we use every day that are byproducts of that source. Not just in the automotive industry, but in almost every facet of our daily existence! Our snow machines cannot function without a large number of them, not just the fuel, but the tracks, drive belts, skis, all the rubber gaskets, seals and other components.
For a number of years now, Michigan Tech’s Keweenaw Research Facility in Calumet has sponsored the Clean Snowmobile Challenge. Engineering teams from colleges across the nation and across our northern border convert a standard snowmobile in one manner or another and compete for bragging rights on best design, best performance and durability, the least emissions, etc.
The categories were fuel, diesel and zero emissions (electric) units and, as impressive as the electric snowmobiles were, there were some serious drawbacks. For example, depending on the composition of the battery, the cold weather saps the power quickly and they could not function without some way to charge their batteries. Other electric vehicles are experiencing the same issues, and wind or solar energy just isn’t enough. The New Green Deal as proposed could and would cause life as we now know it cease to exist!
So, as the title suggests, enjoy our motorized recreation now while we still can. It may not be gone this year or even in the next several years, but the way things look from my naysayer’s viewpoint, it has a strong possibility of disappearing.
We can only hope there are enough sensible lawmakers in Congress to oppose any radical changes, have the intestinal fortitude to do so and will stand up for what is right. During the administration preceding the Trump era, we can recall fuel prices reaching and, in some locations surpassing, $5 per gallon. This prevented some folks from taking to the trails as they once had. With some of the talks we’ve been hearing from the media, those conditions could very well be returning. We can only hope not!