A story in the Washington Post sports section points out that General Motors VP Brent Dewar is pushing NASCAR to switch from gasoline to ethanol. Well, if he was lobbying for the change because of safety reasons, or economics, or for mileage or for performance reasons, one might not carp. But it seems he has a messianic desire to change the world. Dewar was based in Brazil in the 90s and witnessed its transformation from a petroleum-based economy to an ethanol economy. And he wants that to happen in America.
But apparently Dewar hasn’t considered such issues as Brazil’s lack of petroleum reserves, the relative ease of converting sugar cane to ethanol, and the government’s massive subsidies. It is simply a trendy thing to do and will change the world. He believes NASCAR should help lead that change and said “it would send a signal to the public. A lot of people don’t understand the benefits of ethanol.” Of course a lot of people understand both the benefits and the costs–and that is partially why ethanol is still so little used in the U.S.
Even some NASCAR drivers appear to be falling for the scam. Jeff Burton was reported to say: “Although our impact on environmental issues is probably very, very small, from a marketing standpoint, we could have a major impact.” And Kyle Petty seems to support the idea of forcing alternative fuels into widespread acceptance by saying: “I think once you start seeing alternative fuels used 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.”
It seems these few people hope that if NASCAR, as all-American as possible, and some of the world’s fastest cars can run with ethanol, it will convince Joe Six-Pack and NASCAR’s 75 million fans that this is the wave of the future.
This trend represents a continuation of what NASCAR’s original fans feared from the ever-growing shift from the sport’s roots of tobacco and beer into the Madison Avenue world of politically correct corporate responsibility and an abandonment of the good ol’ boys driving fast cars on short tracks in the Southeast.