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Monday, November 10, 2008

How to Drive from Paris to New York

by Christine Lepisto, Berlin on 11. 9.08

Jeeps with floats prepping for Paris-New York Transcontinental 2009 photo

Jeeps Race Climate Change to Set Bering Strait Record
Adventurer Matthias Jeschke intends to drive from Paris to New York. Of course, since the Atlantic presents a serious obstacle to wheeled transportation, Jeschke has plotted a route inspired by early human migration -- across the Bering Strait. If he and his team succeed, they will be the first expedition to drive the trans-continental route.

Modern Obstacle: Global Warming
In a sense, Jeschke follows great expeditions of generations past. But this journey faces a modern irony: in a warming world, the frozen bridge bewteen continents may well be melted. So Jeschke's expedition has adopted an ulterior motive. These three jeeps are eco-ambassadors, intending to round the world "without a trace", highlighting a message of alternative fuels and carbon neutrality.

Three jeeps on an eco-tour? How will they accomplish that? And will rescue floats and "swimming tires" (picture over the fold) prevent disaster on thin ice and help the team make it through where no man has driven before?

At a recent stop along the expedition route in Berlin, Jeschke clarified:

We don't want merely to travel around the world in a spectacular manner. We understand the project 'Paris-New York Transcontinental' as an instrument for targeting, in a spectacular manner, maximum publicity for the themes of CO2-neutral project balances, renewable energies and energy efficiency.

Green or Greenwash?
Backing up their words and goals with acts, the Paris-New York Transcontinental expedition runs on biofuel; specifically, on bioethanol produced from wood waste. Moreover, the lubricating oils for the vehicles are bio-oils. In fact, the team's website clarifies that bio-oils are superior to mineral oils in quality and performance, especially in the cold.

And it will be cold. Another facet of the "without traces" objective requires that the vast wildernesses be crossed in the depths of winter, when the permafrost and deep layers of snow will protect sensitive flora and fauna, and quickly erase any hint of the expedition's passage.

The team will make the trip unsupported, that is, carrying all gear needed for the trip in the vehicles completing the tour. The jeeps may not be hyper-milers, but sufficient time has been planned for all stages of the tour so that the vehicles can proceed at slower, more fuel-efficient speeds. Since those vehicles are renewably fueled and lubricated, the CO2 emissions related to the adventure will be low. Nevertheless, CO2 related to the expedition will be offset by planting trees, with governmental authorities verifying the sufficiency of the offset measures.

swimming tire photo

Will the Ice Hold?
The team is scheduled to cross the Bering Strait in February. As it turns out, driving across the strait will be important for Jaschke's team in more ways than one: the feat of crossing the Bering Strait in a wheeled vehicle on floats has already been claimed by Steve Burgess, an English farmer with an adventurous bent. But better safe than sorry. The three jeeps will be prepared to avoid disaster in the event of thin ice. So while the record round-the-world drive may hang on the team beating climate change related arctic melting, it looks promising that the team will make it through to their destination in New York. Hopefully, their message of sustainability will reach the ears of everyone in their path and beyond.

More on Jeschke's Biofueled Adventures
PNY 2009
Die Welt (German)
From Alaska to Ushuaia on Biodiesel in 15 Days