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Old 02-21-2007, 06:14 PM   #1

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GM executive wants NASCAR to go green

I thought this was pretty cool, I found it on Fox Sports

GM executive wants NASCAR to go green
Associated Press

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) - While working for General Motors in Brazil in the 1990s, Brent Dewar got a firsthand look at the country's successful switch from an oil-based economy to ethanol.

Dewar wants to see the same thing happen in the United States, and he thinks NASCAR can help. He's lobbying officials to consider a switch from gasoline to ethanol.
"We would embrace it," said Dewar, GM's vice president of field sales, service and parts. "We think it would be great on a lot of fronts, because obviously it would send a signal to the public. A lot of people don't understand the benefits of ethanol."

Other racing series already are embracing renewable fuels. Beginning this season, the Indy Racing League's IndyCar Series will race on 100 percent ethanol. And the American LeMans Series will race on a 10 percent ethanol blend.

Now, Dewar and others in the garage said they believe NASCAR should explore alternative fuels - and no, not the kind Michael Waltrip was caught with in Daytona.

"Without a doubt, I think we should look into it," driver Jeff Burton said. "Although our impact on environmental issues is probably very, very small from an actual use standpoint, from a marketing standpoint, we could have a major impact."

Driver Kyle Petty says NASCAR's marketing horsepower might drive alternative fuels into the mainstream, helping consumers get over the image of hippies tinkering with their 1980s Mercedes to make them run on vegetable oil.

"I think once you start seeing alternative fuels show up in places like racing and places where you least expect them, then you don't think about that guy with the Volkswagen van that runs off of whatever," Petty said.

NASCAR is taking one step in the direction of environmental responsibility by getting the lead out, catching up with a change most consumers made in the 1980s by switching from leaded to unleaded fuel.

NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston said officials are willing to consider renewable fuels, too.

"In terms of looking at the next step, obviously we're open to options," Poston said.

Petty figures the whole country will switch to renewable fuels at some point, so it makes sense for NASCAR and its official fuel supplier, Sunoco, to lead the way.

"You would like to think that they would take a leading role in it, especially through Sunoco's involvement," Petty said. "Because I know Sunoco's taken a huge step in that direction."

NASCAR teams also would have to modify their cars to run on ethanol, but Dewar said the switch wouldn't be a "major investment." And he said it ultimately would be worth the hassle.

Still, even proponents don't portray ethanol as a magic wand. Despite its benefits - it's renewable, can provide a slight performance advantage, isn't imported from politically volatile countries and burns cleaner - ethanol isn't as efficient as gasoline.

Although today's cars can run on 90 percent gasoline/10 percent ethanol blends, cars have to be specially equipped to run on heavier blends of ethanol.

GM and other car companies sell "flex fuel" passenger vehicles that run on gasoline or E85, an 85 percent ethanol/15 percent gasoline blend. But E85 isn't widely distributed in the U.S.

In Brazil, gas stations carry regular gasoline and 100 percent ethanol. Most of the country's cars can run on either fuel. Given fluctuations in fuel prices, Brazilian consumers must make an informed choice every time they fill up. Dewar said gasoline is about 20 percent more efficient than ethanol. So if ethanol is more than 20 percent cheaper than gasoline, ethanol makes economic sense, as well as environmental sense. Dewar was in Brazil in December and said ethanol was 50 percent cheaper than gasoline.

Technological innovations also could drive down the price of ethanol, he said. Today, most ethanol in the U.S. is made from corn. In Brazil, ethanol is made from sugar cane. Some research indicates certain kinds of grass and even wood chips might be better suited to making ethanol. Researchers also are working to develop enzymes, Dewar said, that break down waste products into ethanol. In five years, Dewar expects cars to literally run on recycled garbage.

With all that in mind, Petty said it's time for NASCAR to think about going green.

"I think the global-warming thing, and all the things that are written about that, a lot more people are aware of the fact that we do need to do something," Petty said.
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Old 02-21-2007, 09:50 PM   #2
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Very interesting article. it will be even more interesting to see if nascar finds it fesable to begin to use ethanol.
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