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ODDS and ENDS


#TRADEOFFS

According to recent reports General Motors will "formally petition" NASCAR to adopt ethanol fuels for its race series.

Thus count GM as being among those wanting to drastically reduce the nasty gases being spewed into the Earth's atmosphere because of the perception of arising global problems that, so far, have yet to be conclusively proven.

(While the "weight of the evidence" has dictated mass alert, or Chicken Little en masse, remember that going free today are a number of guys convicted by weighty evidence like eyewitness testimony -- "That's him over there, your Honor, he did it" -- after wrongly spending decades behind bars. So spare me subjective and non sequitur "he said" e-mails, please.)

Besides, whether one accepts the atmospheric premise or rejects it isn't the point herein. It's the cost of the change to ethanol use. Here are some thoughts along those lines:

In April the federal government issued new air quality regulations that immediately allow ethanol plants to emit more than twice the previously allowed volume of air pollutants without triggering the air quality permit restrictions imposed on other smokestack industries. That means ethanol plants now qualify as "minor emitters" while each year legally spewing up to 250 million gallons of atmospheric pollutants. With "exception" permits, they'll be able to emit even more - and which plant would be denied such a permit should the general public scream for "more" fuel?

According to Minnesota's Pollution Control Agency, one St. Paul ethanol plant's pollutants included carbon monoxide, methanol, toluene, formaldehyde and acetaldehyde -- the latter two known to cause cancer in animals.

In 2007 the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates 12.2-billion bushels of corn will be grown, of which 3.2-billion bushels (about 180-billion lbs.) will be directed to ethanol production resulting in about 3-billion gallons (about 25-billion lbs.) of motor fuel.

However, compared to gasoline, ethanol is only 70-percent as efficient, thereby meaning those 3 billion gallons of ethanol will last about 36 days instead of gasoline's per-gallon equivalent of 52 days.

Though present U.S. ethanol refining capacity lacks, even if all 12.2-billion bushels of annual U.S. corn production were redirected to refining ethanol the supply would last roughly 150 days, based on Feb. 2007 gasoline-use statistics provided by the federal Energy Information Administration.

Put another way: using the entire present U.S. corn crop for ethanol, fuel production would be about 40-percent of that presently used each day by the average driver. Talk about high gas prices.

Furthermore, U.S. farmers are very unlikely to produce enough product to meet President George W. Bush's goal of consuming 35-billion gallons (132-billion liters) of alternative fuels every year by 2017 - a 500-percent increase over current requirements. Can you say "continuing trade imbalance?"

And what of opposite and equal?

With the entire corn crop redirected to fuel production, gone entirely would be food, pharmaceuticals and the literally thousands of products used daily made from corn in whole or part, not to mention the jobs making, distributing and selling those products. Never mind the impact it'd have on the financial and real estate markets.

While farming land will go up in price - therefore ultimately making corn production even more expensive - one very real possible consequence of job loss is a real estate foreclosure of that former worker's home.

Most important of all, my 1966 Mustang 2+2 K-code probably won't be ethanol adaptable, unless I change out most of the original engine's fuel system. What's the point in having a classic if it can't be a classic? Gee whiz, I can see it now: "Mad Max, USA."

That ethanol is cleaner-burning than petroleum distillates is a proven and in the usage of which I've got no problem.

But let us not believe it a panacea, either - like GM and others evidently are beginning to think.

JUST ABOUT THE TIME . . .

... One thinks 30-year-old FABCAR is just about gone from the Rolex Series comes word another team will be running FABCAR's new and improved (with more to come) Daytona Prototype.

The No. 39 Crown Royal Special Porsche-FABCAR out of the (Eddie) Cheever Racing stables is the lone FABCAR now competing in the series. Driven by Christian Fittipaldi and Harrison Brix, the car has shown consistent improvement since quiet-spoken Scotsman Iain Watt has exerted his design influence beginning earlier this year.

The team, which will be switching to the FABCAR from another DP constructor (indeed, having two such cars), is undertaking preparations and should be testing within the next six weeks or so. The engine? BMW.

RUMOR MILL

A couple of interesting rumors floated around the Rolex Series' Virginia International Raceway paddock last week.

Depending on Rolex Series' source, Finlay Motorsports' Daytona Prototype operation has teamed with Chip Ganassi Racing With Felix Sabates because (pick one):

1.            The combination provides Finlay with the "technical
resources needed" to be competitive in the series;  or,

2. The team is waiting to ascertain the "direction" taken by the new five-year DP plan, effective in 2008; or,

3. Dissension within Finlay concerning allocation of former engineer's Rick Cameron's split attention between son Dane's (an upcoming, talented driver) career and that devoted to Finlay Motorsports; or,

4. Finlay Motorsports' ARCA program is sucking up the available resources.

Whatever, now out of a job are a bunch of team members who earlier this year moved with the team from the West Coast to the East Coast.

On another front, Grand Am and IMSA/ALMS were rumored to be engaged in buyout discussions of the latter by the former.

"That's a crock," NASCAR vice-chair and Grand-Am co-founder Jim France said when asked about it.

"Absolutely incorrect and lacking merit," Grand-Am president Roger Edmondson said.

Later. - Written by DC Williams exclusively for Motorsport.com

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About this article
Series General , Grand-Am , NASCAR
Drivers Christian Fittipaldi , Chip Ganassi , Harrison Brix , Felix Sabates
Teams Williams , Chip Ganassi Racing