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Racing into Oblivion

But NASCAR is just blowing ruinous PC smoke in the faces of its fans. The touted ethanol benefits are dubious at best and false at worst for at least four reasons. First, ethanol contains significantly less energy than gasoline on a per gallon basis: 78,000 Btu for ethanol versus 115,000 Btu for gasoline. So it’s difficult to see how ethanol can boost performance and horsepower.

Second, because ethanol contains less energy (lowering fuel economy) and is expensive to produce, it drives up the per-gallon cost of gasoline. Thus, ethanol can’t compete with gasoline on the open market without a portfolio of subsidies and tax credits. So NASCAR fans (and the rest of us) pay for the stuff twice: through taxes and at the pump.

Third, it takes roughly as much fossil fuel energy to produce ethanol (transportation, cultivation, fertilizers, pesticides, refining) as it releases. So in terms of energy inputs and outputs, you’re essentially running in place. How does that contribute to energy independence? And the ethanol production process consumes copious amounts of water and nonrenewable land resources. So the “renewable” designation makes a mockery of truth-in-advertising standards.

And fourth, ethanol isn’t “environmentally friendly” at all, at least in terms of carbon emissions, as even Al Gore concedes. The whole production process releases more carbon (assuming that’s bad) than do fossil fuels. The ethanol lobby is little more than a corrupt political machine, whose purpose is to reelect incumbent politicians from farm and ethanol-producing states by transferring wealth to those states from the rest of us.

Plus, because a significant and growing portion of corn production is dedicated to ethanol, it drives up food prices, as even the Congressional Budget Office concedes. Ethanol is also very corrosive -- so much so that E15, the fuel NASCAR is pushing, will damage the very types of cars many NASCAR fans are driving.

Yet nothing shows NASCAR’s contempt for its fan base more than its pact with the EPA. The EPA’s war on coal and on projects such as the Keystone pipeline is costing NASCAR fans jobs as it squeezes them by driving up the cost of energy and food. That’s less money for race tickets. The agency’s destructive regulatory agenda is strangling innovation and job creation by heaping ever more burdens on small and medium businesses. EPA Regional Administrator Al Armendariz famously touted that the agency’s goal is to crucify oil and gas companies. This is the company NASCAR proudly keeps?

NASCAR once harbored and nurtured a fierce independent streak. The sport was founded by bootleggers who sped over dirt back roads in souped-up cars to evade the taxing and regulatory authority enforcers. It was the domain of mavericks, such the late engine builder and crew chief Smokey Yunick -- the greatest rule-bender of them all. He once made inspection weight by packing his car’s roll cage with wet sand. He installed little plugs in the floor so that on race day, they could be popped to let the now dry sand run out, giving his driver a distinct weight advantage. There was no explicit rule against that.

That celebration of cunning and independence is long gone, replaced by centralized five-year-plans. NASCAR is now just another looped-in corporatist, working hand-in-glove with an agency that has utter contempt for this nation’s founding principals as well as its citizens. As a copious consumer of fossil fuels and big carbon emitter (not unlike “green” Hollywood), maybe NASCAR buckled under pressure. Maybe it thought it was better to enlist with “the man” than fight him.

We saw how well that worked out for the Catholic Church.

As a former Texas Motor Speedway season ticket holder and a regular attendee of the Brickyard 400, I have one thing to say to NASCAR: good riddance.