NASCAR, a sport long associated with consumption, now proudly toots its horn as a leader in conservation.
While in South Florida for its season-finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, NASCAR will host a Green Summit to highlight its environmentally responsible efforts, as well as those of sponsors, and to address future innovations in conservation and sustainability. The summit is Thursday, 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. at the Eden Roc Renaissance Hotel in Miami Beach.
“There is a predisposition to think that companies that become involved in something like NASCAR that is a motor sport may not be as green as other companies, and that our fans are not as green as the general public Actually the opposite is the truth,” said Michael Lynch, managing director of the NASCAR Green Innovation. “The companies in this sport are very environmentally responsible and very smart about it from a business standpoint.”
NASCAR’s most visible green initiative was the switch this season to a racing fuel blend with a 15-percent corn ethanol.
But some of the off-track efforts during the past three years may be more significant. According to Lynch, its recycling program is the largest in sports. More than 1,000 tons of material from NASCAR races this season is being recycled.
Some of the other initiatives aimed at reducing the sport’s impact on the environment and promoting sustainability include a solar farm at Pocono Raceway that powers the track and 700 homes, as well as recycling of fluids, tires, batteries and other parts of the race cars.
“We’re going to be really pushing in an innovation direction now having to do with technologies and solutions, whether on the track, in the garage or around the venues,” Lynch said.
There is considerable debate about ethanol, regarding whether it is a viable alternative to fossil fuels or a boondoggle. Critics charge that it has driven up food prices while providing an undeserved subsidy to farmers and producers of fuel.
It is an evolving industry, and Lynch said NASCAR is excited about the next generation of bio fuels that do not use food in the production of ethanol. He pointed to Poet LLC, which is building a plant in Iowa that will begin producing 25 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol in 2013. The process uses corncobs after the kernels have been removed and a portion of the stalk.
“Part reason we’re in partnership with growth energy is they are technology leaders. We have our eyes very much on the potential of higher ethanol blends in our cars when that is relevant on the street and the introduction of cellulosic ethanol in the sport to go with the country around that next generation biofuel phase that is coming in the next couple years,” Lynch said.
Ethanol continues to have plenty of detractors, but NASCAR is pleased with the first season of racing with Sunoco Green E-15 fuel. Racing teams have reported increased horsepower from what they got with the previous straight unleaded racing fuel, while experiencing less of a decrease in fuel efficiency than was expected.
Photos: (Above) Cars in all NASCAR series have been using fuel with a 15 percent ethanol blend this season; (below) Coca-Cola's Portable Recycling Processing center goes from track to track recycling cans and bottles. PHOTOS COURTESY/NASCAR