The answer is yes. And powerboats, SUVs, helicopters, Formula One cars, planes and lots of other things we enjoy can all be sustainable too. They just need to use sustainable fuel.
There are lots of routes to sustainable fuel. The simplest but most dangerous is to make it from plants alone. Why? Because it takes lots of land to grow fuel, and we need that land for wildlife, and to grow food for people.
A better route is to use solar energy to make hydrogen, then use that hydrogen to make liquid fuels. I’ve included a page on a route to do that. On that page I reckon that methanol from the solar route would be 20% to 120% more costly to use than petrol in the UK in 2013. It would therefore be easily affordable for a jet ski, and for other leisure uses. In time, given technical advances, the cost of this fuel would be expected to fall.
The solar power would be best produced in deserts. There are lots of them on the planet – in North Africa, Australia, the Middle East, North America, Asia and Southern Africa. Ships could bring fuel from any of them, reducing the risks associated with dependency on one source of supply. See this earlier post for a view of whether the deserts can power us.
The picture shows a family outing to the seaside in 2050. Both the SUV and the jet ski use methanol fuel. The SUV can be away from civilisation for days if required. The jet ski too burns methanol, and is just as light and powerful as its 2015 versions were. Methanol fuel can be obtained from filling stations, which have converted to sustainable fuels to replace fossil fuel.
Why have I been banging on about battery electric cars and buses if this is true? Electric cars will be preferred for routine journeys like commuting and shorter journeys like shopping. They should be cheaper to operate than current fossil fuelled cars, and considerably cheaper than methanol fuelled vehicles. That is because battery vehicles can chose when to recharge, picking times when electricity supply is high and costs are low.
Battery vehicles will have adequate range for urban duties. They are pollution free, and may be mandated for urban use for that reason alone. Sustainable liquid fuels will therefore be reserved for those activities where battery vehicles cannot do the job.
Will methanol be used in internal combustion engines like those of 2015? Yes – very often. There will also be a new option to use fuel cells, which are quiet and efficient. Fuels like methanol (or hydrogen) are far easier for fuel cells than petrol or diesel.