Racing Around in Circles Over Ethanol

indy race car

Racing Around in Circles Over Ethanol

Wow! The ethanol lobby’s rhetoric has outdone itself on this connection to Memorial Day, … read the box below:


Earlier this week, the Indy Racing League (IRL) announced it was partnering with Brazilian trade promotion agency APEX-Brazil, making the agency the official ethanol supplier to the IndyCar Series. The news appeared to be met with little fanfare, but now, the U.S.’ largest ethanol trade group is urging IRL to reconsider its decision and instead have the race cars run on domestically produced ethanol.

The multi-year deal names APEX-Brazil an official partner of the Indy Racing League and the Indianapolis 500, beginning with the 2009 season, and includes cooperation from UNICA, the Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association, to identify those interested in supplying ethanol to the series.

According to IRL, they will need 120,000 gallons of E100 for the IndyCar series, 40,000 gallons of E85 for the Firestone Indy Lights and 50,000 gallons of biodiesel for support/transport each year.

“On behalf of America’s ethanol producers, I want to express my deep displeasure in the Indy Racing League’s decision to abandon homegrown ethanol as the league’s official fuel. How can you run the Indianapolis 500, a race so imbedded in the culture of this nation, on an imported fuel?” Renewable Fuels Association President Bob Dinneen wrote this morning to Terry Angstadt, president of IRL’s commercial division.

“For almost 100 years, the Indianapolis 500 has been a showcase for cutting edge vehicle technology. Held on Memorial Day, it has also come to be a time-honored event that serves to thoughtfully pay tribute to those Americans who gave their lives protecting our freedoms. The decision to bypass the more than 180 ethanol biorefineries across our country in favor of a tanker ship from Sao Paulo to be the official supplier of fuel for the IRL is an affront to America’s farmers who have worked to enhance economic opportunities for rural communities and all Americans who have fought and are fighting for our energy independence,” Dinneen continued.

IRL has made an exception to allow the Iowa Corn 250, held in June, to run on U.S.-produced ethanol, Dinneen noted. “This simply underscores the fact that American ethanol is available if the league is committed to supporting a homegrown energy source….On behalf of America’s ethanol producers, I strongly urge the IRL to reconsider its decision. At a minimum, you should use America’s homegrown renewable fuel to power the Indianapolis 500. As in Iowa, I am quite certain that the network of ethanol producers in the state of Indiana stand at the ready to supply the race with the fuel it needs,” he added.

However, IRL spokesman John Griffin said all the league is doing is switching marketing partners from EPIC (Ethanol Promotion and Information Council) to APEX. “It is business as usual for us in the immediate future,” he said. In fact, UNICA said it initially plans to partner with a U.S.-based ethanol company to supply the IndyCar Series with corn-based ethanol.

IRL is “committed to its deal with APEX and are looking at this as [support for] ethanol, not sugarcane, not corn and not cellulosic-based ethanol,” Griffin said. “In all likelihood, we’ll be using American ethanol next year,” he added. Details for where APEX and UNICA would be getting their ethanol from in subsequent years hadn’t been determined yet, he noted.

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