While people starve NASCAR’s ethanol fuel to come from Wisconsin

UPDATE Click here for a rather different take on the proceedings. Michael Knight is a veteran PR and media type with a long history in IndyCar and motorsports.

Here is an excerpt from Knight's blog:

Color NASCAR’s second Sprint Cup awards activities in Las Vegas green. But, for a few moments last Thursday, I was trying so hard to keep from laughing that I was close to blue.

What had me amused, other legitimate considerations aside, this clearly was at least an indirect shot at the IndyCar Series. NASCAR has many ways to play the racing political game and in the aftermath of the unhappy IndyCar-International Speedway Corp. split, this was an example of who still has the muscle in the U.S. motorsports industry.

Remember, when IndyCar went to ethanol a few years ago it was using corn ethanol in association with a U.S. trade group (EPIC). When said trade organization went belly-up, IndyCar had to go to Brazil for its ethanol.

Now NASCAR has staked its claim to the red, white and blue benefits of green and that’s no coincidence. It’s a political shot across the bow of the IndyCar series. NASCAR is even copying IndyCar’s E-logo on the green flag.

Knight seems skeptical of France's claim that the environment is actually driving the Growth Energy deal. So, let's take a look at two ethanol stories. Dr. Diandra Leslie-Pelecky is the author of The Physics of NASCAR: The Science behind the Speed.

Click here to read her take on the ethanol issue. Here is an excerpt:

It is very difficult to find anyone in the energy field who will argue that corn ethanol is a sustainable fuel or a wise choice for the future. Corn is a high-maintenance energy source and virtually no one not associated with the corn lobby is arguing that making corn production more efficient will make enough of a dent in the problem to be worthwhile.

Now let’s look at the argument that ethanol is a cleaner burning fuel. Ethanol produces less carbon dioxide per gallon than gasoline; however, since ethanol only contains 2/3 the energy (gallon for gallon), you have to use more ethanol than gasoline to go the same distance. By the time you factor in those two issues, pure ethanol actually produces more carbon dioxide than pure gasoline when you compare carbon dioxide produced per energy.

Three days after posting the article and then appearing on NASCAR Sirius channel 128 to discuss the ethanol issue, Dr. Diandra posted this on her Twitter account:

If you are following me for NASCAR, please unfollow, as I won't be tweeting about NASCAR any more in the future. Thanks.

For many years, Dr. Diandra was a fan and media favorite for NASCAR topics explained from a scientific perspective. She has not posted on the Building Speed blog or returned to address any NASCAR topics since that day.

Many consider the 2008 Time Magazine story titled The Clean Energy Scam by Michael Grunwald a definitive piece on the reality of ethanol. Click here to read the article.

Here are some sentences from the Grunwald piece that leap off the page:

Corn ethanol, always environmentally suspect, turns out to be environmentally disastrous.

The grain it takes to fill an SUV tank with ethanol could feed a person for a year.

The lesson behind the math is that on a warming planet, land is an incredibly precious commodity, and every acre used to generate fuel is an acre that can't be used to generate the food needed to feed us or the carbon storage needed to save us.

Update 1PM ET 12/6/10: Here are two more links passed along by readers that address this topic:

Click here for the Denver Post story: Tide Ebbing For Ethanol?

This is stunning: "Producers of ethanol made from corn receive 73 cents to provide an amount of biofuel with the energy equivalent to that in one gallon of gasoline."

That's 73 cents in federal tax subsidies, says the Congressional Budget Office — or 45 cents for every gallon of ethanol blended into gasoline.

Click here for the New York Times story: Gore Riles Corn Ethanol Lobby

“First-generation ethanol, I think, was a mistake. The energy conversion ratios are at best very small," Al Gore said. “It’s hard once such a program is put in place to deal with the lobbies that keep it going."

People are starving around the world and the racing industry is supporting cutting down crops to burn fuel. And to add insult to injury they have the audacity to tell us this is the environmental thing to do! The politicians are in ethanol's pocket, and most people don't realize the taxpayers are paying for it! Plus, it hurts mileage in a street car and creates lots of pollution when it is made.

12/04/10 With billions of people starving worldwide, mankind continues to waste millions of farmland each year of growing crops for ethanol production instead. First IndyCar and ALMS and now NASCAR has fallen into the ethanol trap.

Several Wisconsin farmers say a new partnership between NASCAR and the newly formed American Ethanol will help boost the visibility of ethanol and serve as an educational tool for the public.

The announcement of the partnership Thursday comes weeks after NASCAR said it will use an E15 blend of ethanol in its top three racing divisions, including the Sprint Cup Series.

Corn producers say the move will help them reach millions of Americans weekly during the racing season.

"We have so much excess corn we have to find a market for, and this way (ethanol production) we're keeping the corn in the state and country and creating jobs," Dave Adams, president of Wisconsin Corn Promotion Board, said at a news conference at Lambeau Field. "You have to get people educated for them to use it."

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