Green Racing: NASCAR Switches to E15 Gasoline for the 2011 Season.

Josh McCainSenior Writer IDecember 29, 2010

FORT WORTH, TX - DECEMBER 14:  A Rosemont 6th Grade School student holds a NASCAR Green Clean Air flag on December 14, 2010 in Fort Worth, Texas.  Employees from Texas Motor Speedway worked to refurbish an educational garden and plant trees at Rosemont 6th Grade School. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway)
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

On December 2nd NASCAR Chairman Brian France announced that America's most popular motor sport would be switching fuels to a fifteen percent ethanol based fuel or E15.

This deal comes with a partnership between NASCAR and American Ethanol, and is under the flag NASCAR Green.

For those of you who've heard of ethanol, but don't necessarily know what it is, it is basically fuel made from starches and sugars.

In the United States our ethanol comes from corn, in places like Brazil (where ethanol based fuel is very popular) they get theirs from an abundance of sugar cane.

I'm sure most, if not all, of you reading this have seen signs at your local gas station informing you that their fuel contains ten percent ethanol.

The reason you see that is because the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) requires gasoline to be ten percent ethanol because it burns cleaner than regular gasoline.

However, there are a couple of downsides to this cleaner fuel.

First, is performance.  Odds are if you're reading this article you're a NASCAR fan and like most NASCAR fans you care about your car and want it to perform at it's peak.

Well ethanol doesn't combust as efficiently as pure gasoline and therefore you'll lose a pony or two from your horsepower. 

And even though ethanol does burn cleaner your miles per gallon (mpg) is lower than with pure gasoline.

Also, no manufacturer from General Motors to Toyota recommends E15 fuel.

In fact those two companies along with Ford Motor Company have filed suit with the U.S. Supreme Court in order to block the EPA from requiring gas station to switch to E15 fuel, stating that E15 can harm engines and void warranties. 

Another downside that has nothing to do with cars is that because so much of America's corn supply is being used to make ethanol food prices are on the rise.

And not just corn either, anything that uses corn has risen as well.  Everything from tortilla chips, to soda and other surgery products that us high fructose corn-syrup.

I won't bore you too much with with ramblings about the myths of ethanol, if you like here's a short 20/20 video on the subject: .

However, I do see some upside to NASCAR switching to E15 fuel.

Scenario number one, motor sports (no matter the brand) have always been at the forefront of new technologies for cars.

Shoot, some of the cooler cars and better engines to come out in the 60's and 70's were because of NASCAR teams trying to one-up each other at the track.

So, if E15 is going to succeed in motor sports then the engineers for the various teams in NASCAR are going to need to figure out how to get as much hp and mpg as possible from this fuel.

Once they do that, the companies that provide them the nice little sticker that goes on the hood of the car will take that research and begin to implement it in production vehicles once the EPA shoves E15 down the American public's collective throats.

Like NASCAR once did when it raced actual "stock" cars it will put the automakers ahead of the curve for new technologies.

Scenario number two, this whole E15 thing blows up in NASCAR and American Ethanol's faces and the politicians and American public see what a shame E15 fuel really is.

Not that I want the Daytona 500 ruined, but as a person who is against ethanol based fuel I'd love to see the cars knock and stall at the beginning of the biggest race of the year just to see how the corn lobby would spin it.

So there you have it NASCAR fans, your favorite sport is switching to a greener fuel, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but given that racing is meant to be a high octane sport I'm not how well it's going to work out in the end.

For more car ramblings, follow me on Twitter (@jomac006).