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NASCAR puts ethanol to the test

By Staff | Jan 28, 2011

Racing legend Rusty Wallace addresses the Renewable Fuels Summit Tuesday discussing NASCAR’s switch to E-15 fuel.

Des Moines – From the green fields of Iowa to the green flag of race day, NASCAR is putting ethanol at the forefront of the sport, thanks to its switch to E15 this year.

“I’m very excited that we’re going to be racing on ethanol in the Cup Series, the truck series and the Nationwide series,” said NASCAR legend Rusty Wallace, who was in Des Moines on Tuesday to speak at the Renewable Fuels Summit.

“When NASCAR runs on ethanol, it will be on everyone’s radar.”

NASCAR’s E15, which is a 15 percent blend of ethanol, will use corn grown by American farmers. The fuel has been tested extensively, Wallace said, and has passed numerous trials on dynos, fuel flow meters and other equipment with flying colors.

“Our engines run at 10,000 revolutions per minute and practically blow the hood off the cars, and all our testing has shown nothing bad about ethanol,” said Wallace, who praised ethanol’s ability to reduce America’s dependence of foreign oil and highlighted the need for more blender pumps across the country.

“2011 will be a seminal year that will dictate the pace and direction of biofuels in America.” —Robert Dinneen IRFA, CEO

“Not only does it provide more horsepower, but we’ve run up to 30 percent blends in our cars before we saw much of a change in miles per gallon. If it’s good enough for the world’s best drivers, it’s good enough for everyone.”

Future of biofuels

Other new opportunities are opening up for E15, now that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently waived a limitation on selling gasoline that contains more than 10 percent ethanol for model year 2001 through 2006 passenger vehicles, including cars, SUVs, and light pickup trucks.

The E15 waiver is one more step to support the federal Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which mandated an increase in the overall volume of renewable fuels into the marketplace, reaching a 36-billion-gallon total in 2022.

Robert Dinneen, president and chief executive officer of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, believes that 2011 will be a seminal year that will dictate the pace and direction of biofuels in America.

“The newly sworn-in Congress will likely determine the future of renewable fuels,” said Dinneen, who spoke at the summit. “There are 106 new members in the U.S. House of Representatives, so that means there are one in four members of the House who have little exposure to the ethanol debate.”

In light of the food-versus-fuel debate, the critics who charge that biofuels are taking away grain that could be used for food are just plain wrong, noted Newt Gingrich, a long-time biofuel supporter and former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, who addressed the Renewable Fuels Summit.

“We are at the edge of the age of life sciences, and Iowa is one of the best-positioned places in the world to be at the forefront of this biological revolution.

“Your farmers’ capacity to produce is unmatched anywhere in the world, and the biological revolution is translating this into better energy and food production.”

Gingrich, who said he’d like to see the EPA replaced by an Environmental Solutions Agency focused on common sense rather than litigation and regulation, is also a strong supporter of flex-fuel vehicles.

“I think that maximizing the development of flex-fuel vehicles ought to be the minimum demand for national security and consumer choice.”

Dinneen added that America needs tax policies that support investment in advanced biofuels, along with more blender pumps for E15, E85 and other mid-levels blends to reach the goals of the Energy Independence and Security Act.

While the biofuel industry’s opposition is well organized and well funded, Dinneen noted that Iowans have a unique opportunity to showcase the benefits of biofuels to people seeking the highest political offices in the land, as well as the members of the media who follow them.

“Vet these political candidates to make sure they share our vision for energy security.

“You have great achievements to show with biofuels and it’s critical that you tell this story loud and proud.”

You can contact Darcy Dougherty Maulsby by e-mail at yettergirl@yahoo.com.

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