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Champ Car to switch to ethanol in 2008 UPDATE #2 A reader writes, I find that I strongly agree AND disagree with your stand on Champ Car and E85.  I totally agree that corn-based ethanol in not a tenable alternative fuel source.  However, I DO believe that cellulose-based ethanol, may one day be an alternative to crude oil based fuels, but that will be years and millions of investment dollars from now.  I do believe that E85 makes sense as a short term solution for Champ Car for reasons that you may not have considered.  The most obvious is that it is at least less exotic than methanol, and potentially less corrosive.  Since E85 is being touted by automakers and gasoline producers, a switch might help to bring a much needed associate sponsor into the series, and its hard to argue with anything that can do that.  Obviously, E85 is not a long-term solution for anyone.  I would be shocked if you will be able to find it at the pumps in 5 years, but who knows where Champ Car will be 5 years from now?  Unless Cosworth is working on a turbo diesel engine, it may well be a good short term idea. Al MacKrell, San Antonio, TX

05/21/07 An opposing view to Gerald Forsythe and the IRL pro-ethanol faction. 

05/21/07 Gerald Forsythe, the longtime Champ Car team owner and co-owner of the Champ Car organization is a champion of ethanol. Forsythe wants Champ Car to switch next year to ethanol E85 rather than the 100 percent ethanol which the IRL has adopted this year.

“I’m glad you picked up on the subject because it’s right in front of us,” Forsythe commented. Forsythe says there’s no debate that E85 (85 percent ethanol) is the blend that will dominate the market. “I don’t know why people are talking about E10 or E55, or even E100,” he remarked. “None of that is on the market. E85 is what’s going to be on the market. That’s what’s going to be promoted and I think that’s what Champ Car should be going to. It smells good and it’s more pleasant than gasoline or methanol and it’s going to be the most heavily marketed alternative fuel for quite a few years to come.”

The United States and Brazil are the world’s leading ethanol producers. In 2006, the USA surpassed Brazil to become the globe’s largest ethanol producer, manufacturing 4.8 million gallons compared to Brazil’s 4.5 million. Forsythe has an economic interest in ethanol’s success because he owns an interest in fourteen of the nation’s 116 biofuel processing plants.

“We have an interest in fourteen plants,” Forsythe commented. “We don’t own any of the plants outright. We have anywhere from ten to close to fifty percent interest in those plants. We don’t want to be the only owner because there’s an issue on the supply of corn. If you don’t have the farmers invested in it, there’s no obligation on their part to bring the corn to you.

“Most of the plants are structured as co-operatives,” he explained. “For example, we own about forty-eight percent of a plant in Palatine, Illinois, but there are four hundred investors in addition to us in that plant, and each of them has to commit X number of bushels for every share they buy. That way, you’re assured a supply of corn. The big guys like Cargill can go out and build plants on their own because they’ve got grain elevators all around the United States so they’ve got a supply of corn.

“But we will continue to invest as long as the plants are structured properly with the right contractor and the right technology. I see for the foreseeable future that we’re going to continue to invest in these plants because this is going to be good business for a long time. We’ve also invested in our first bio-diesel plant in Freeport, Illinois this year. We’ve established a relationship with a firm out of Iowa that is building bio-diesel plants. Again, if it’s structured well and in the right location we’ll invest in those as well.

“There are very few dollars looking at any other fuel at this point,” Forsythe added. “I think over the next five to ten years ethanol will be the big player. It’s going to be huge. For the foreseeable future, ethanol is where you want to be. There is considerably more money being spent on ethanol plant construction and expanding the infrastructure to deliver the product than any other alternative fuel. Actually, there isn’t anything else even close.” More at GordonKirby.com

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