American Ethanol decals and flags can be seen everywhere at this year’s NASCAR racing events. With this exposure, the industry has a prime opportunity to “change the hearts and minds of Americans” [about ethanol], said Greg Breukelman, senior v.p., communications, POET, during the Fuel Ethanol Workshop (FEW) this week in Indianapolis, IN.
Breukelman was part of a panel featuring ethanol industry representatives as well as representatives from NASCAR (www.nascar.com). NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series vehicles are all using E15 (Sunoco Green E15) this season.
NASCAR’s use and promotion of E15 will help the industry dispel common myths surrounding ethanol, many of the speakers said. One of the myths that “has dogged” the industry has been perpetuated by mechanics who repeatedly blame engine failure on ethanol, said Rick Tolman, CEO, National Corn Growers Association (NCGA). Now that the ethanol industry can point out that the $100,000+ NASCAR vehicles run on E15, these arguments can be put to rest, he said.
The ethanol industry’s multi-year collaboration with NASCAR is an opportunity to reach about 80 million devoted NASCAR fans who are brand loyal to NASCAR-supported products. “This is a game changer,” Tolman said.
Just prior to the panel discussion, Brian France, NASCAR’s CEO, said that ethanol “has been great for NASCAR,” adding that it has been a “flawless fuel.” He pointed out that before NASCAR agreed to use E15, it did a significant amount of testing.
Lest anyone think that “yeah well, it’s a paid endorsement,” France pointed out that if NASCAR would have experienced any problems with ethanol, the cars would not have been able to race and that would have put a quick end to the effort. “We had to have a lot of confidence in your product,” he told the FEW audience.
“As we’ve been debunking myths, one thing has become apparent. This is so much larger than doing something positive for the environment,” said Eric Nyquist, NASCAR’s v.p. of strategic development. “This is about American energy independence — keeping small communities alive and vibrant, lessening our dependence on foreign oil, and for not going abroad to fight for oil. That’s when the dial began to move.”
The big picture is what has resonated with drivers. “You’ve made true believers out of our drivers, teams and tracks,” Nyquist said, adding “I’m proud to be part of something that’s taking our country to a better tomorrow.”
It was inspiring to listen to Eric Nyquist in particular. It is pretty easy to get caught up in the daily grind and the many challenges ethanol faces. But, when you consider the big picture of what this fuel can do to help secure a more energy independent future, there is a sense of optimism. And this is a pretty good feeling going into the Fourth of July weekend. Have a great Independence Day!