nascar turning to ethanol?
i’ll be the first to admit that i’m no nascar fan but i was perusing some of the archives over at time when i found an article about nascar closing in on switching from leaded gasoline to ethanol (interestingly i also found a small blurb on treehugger today). my first thought was utter disbelief in the fact that they actually still run on leaded fuel. other racing series, such as indy, have been using ethanol for a while now. my next thought was that this would be a great symbolic move for the sustainable movement. certainly nascar represents only a tiny fraction of gasoline consumed in this country but the societal swing power nascar carries could easily translate into faster shift away from gasoline throughout the country. the time article discusses the example of the brazilian system of ethanol cars in depth while trying to make the argument that it is applicable here. this seems rather basic to me as we’ve discussed before brazilian ethanol is not the same as the american version at all. in fact, the brazilian variety is generated from sugar cane as opposed to the corn we use stateside. additionally it has a production ratio of 1:8 and one can produce 650gal/acre of land. our corn-based ethanol requires one barrel of oil for every 1.3 barrels of ethanol produced (1:1.3 production ratio) and can only be produced at 350gal/acre. finally, our version costs 1.25 times more than gasoline per gallon, but is only 0.75 times as efficient, certainly this is not the sustainable fuel it is being marketed as. it is, however, a stop-gap and i am certainly not one to rail against nascar moving away from leaded fuel to something even partially more environmentally friendly. my concern is that at this point we need to move beyond stop-gaps and to something truly sustainable, recycled vegtable oil, hydrogen, water, electric, or pressurized air powered cars to name a few.