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Don't look for Ethanol to win NASCAR any awards
Don’t go looking for NASCAR to win any environmental awards for its latest NASCAR Green initiative -- switching to a 15 percent ethanol blend of fuel for 2011. That’s because ethanol made from corn is one of those fuels that makes a lot of political sense but not a lot of environmental or economic sense.

The political sense is obvious. Corn ethanol is made in the USA. Growing your own fuel is like thumbing your nose at Saudi Arabia.

NASCAR had the political angle down pat on Saturday at Charlotte Motor Speedway when NASCAR chairman Brian France announced the switch. There was even a video presentation during the announcement that featured amber waves of grain and plenty of American flags.

But corn ethanol isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

For one thing, using so much of the corn crop for ethanol tends to drive up the price of other corn products, including meat because corn fed to livestock also rises.

Unlike oil, ethanol is not just pumped out of the ground. It requires a significant amount of energy to process corn into fuel, more so than to convert sugarcane or sugar beets into fuel because corn has to be processed into sugar before it can be made into alcohol.

It should go without saying that the more energy that is expended to create energy, the less efficient the process. It’s sort of like a race team that spends $50,000 to go racing at a track where the prize money for winning is $40,000.

But ethanol works economically because it is heavily subsidized by the government to the tune of about $6 billion a year. Corn ethanol, in fact, sucks up the lion’s share of government money for alternative fuel. More at InsiderRacingNews.com

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