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Old 02-21-2007, 02:24 PM   #1
NYCshopper
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Default NASCAR urged to explore renewable fuels

NASCAR urged to explore renewable fuels

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17261262/

Quote:
GM executive, others urging racing giant to switch from gas to ethanol

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - 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, 03:21 PM   #2
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They'll make a lot more popcorn sales in concessions if they switch to corn ethanol.
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Old 02-21-2007, 05:24 PM   #3
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gonna have to make the restrictor plate hole size smaller to keep the speed down. Burning Ethanol alone has like a 5% increase in power since you can burn more of it, the extra cooling power ain't bad either.
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Old 02-21-2007, 05:43 PM   #4
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Gee. Maybe they should move on to unleaded fuel first.
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Old 02-21-2007, 05:46 PM   #5
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Ethanol Schmethanol I think Nascar needs to be careful when playing with that.
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Old 02-21-2007, 07:20 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by grzydj View Post
Gee. Maybe they should move on to unleaded fuel first.
You obviously have no basic technical knowledge on the subject.
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Old 02-21-2007, 08:51 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by grzydj View Post
Gee. Maybe they should move on to unleaded fuel first.
Nascar is running unleaded starting this weekend, and for the rest of 2007.
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Old 02-21-2007, 10:27 PM   #8
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Give 'em another 20 years and they might think about it. They're still stuck with high-tech versions of 50's technology engine wise, why would they update the fuel?
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Old 02-21-2007, 11:17 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FrankRizzo View Post
Give 'em another 20 years and they might think about it. They're still stuck with high-tech versions of 50's technology engine wise, why would they update the fuel?
They're "stuck" with the 50's technology because it's easy for the organization to police.

Updating the fuel is a simple move that might actually lower the output of the engines (which means less need for the unpopular restrictor plates) and would give the sport an even better public image and some nice green PR.

Despite what so many people seem to think about NASCAR.. it isn't about setting track records... it's about entertainment and marketing.
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Old 02-21-2007, 11:54 PM   #10
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One problem with ethanol (methanol too): Unless you put colloidal carbon or a salt in it to cause color, you just can't tell when it's on fire in the sunlight. For safety reasons they would have to to go with IRL-style fuel rigs complete with a squirt of water at the connector after fueling, and install grounding straps in the pitboxes to avoid static discharge. And that's more bodies over the wall at once, something NASCAR has tried very hard to avoid through the years.

Really though, I can't believe they're still using those stupid fuel cans, that's a huge fuel spill and spark hazard just begging to happen...
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