Kissing the Bricks

Brick Kiss at IndyIndy Bricks

These pictures of the ICARE Cross Country E85 team – Alex, Bradley, Ashley and Tami – at the Indianapolis Speedway are so adorable I wanted to highlight them in a separate post so they wouldn’t be missed. Photo credits go to Whitney Copeland Cole of Indiana AgriNews who was the only media person at the Indy with the group. Great shots! Thanks again Whitney.
According to team member Bradley Westrum from the Day 2 post we were only able to go a top speed of about 50 miles per hour. It truly was the opportunity of a life time. We stopped on the second lap to kiss the Brickyard, which is the strip of bricks that lay across the finish line, and is where every winner of a race that is held there, stops and kisses the bricks. After completing the second lap, we went through the pits, and concluded one of the most exciting parts of the trip. When we got back on the road we calculated how many laps we could complete on the track with one tank of E85. We figured that you could complete about 170 laps before running bone dry.

Captain’s Blog – Stardate 03.08.06 – Day 3

NEVCALA-IAThe continuing saga of the Cross Country E85 trip….courtesy of Bradley Westrum, blogging his way across the USA in a flex-fuel Chevrolet….still working on getting some pictures to go with these posts.

March 08-06 – Today we got up around 5:15 to get ready for our big press day in Ankeny, Iowa. Arriving at the gas station around 6:30 we started to take interviews. KCCI Channel 8 News was there to do a live broadcast, as well as the Fort Dodge Messenger, and the Farm Bureau Spokesman. We talked to Van and Bonnie of WHO radio, Doug Cooper on WOI radio news show, and KJAN radio in Atlantic, via cell phone. Sponsors that were in attendance to the fill up in Ankeny were the American Lung Association, National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition, Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, Representatives from General Motors, and Karl Chevrolet. Senator Beall from Fort Dodge, Iowa paid for the fuel and filled the Avalanche’s tank. After spending a few hours at the Kum&Go doing lots of interviews, we got back on the road. We filled in Council Bluffs, IA then headed for Nebraska where we filled up in North Platte. In North Platte, we found out that the roads were questionable due to a major storm sweeping across the Midwest. After filling the tank, we booked it to Sidney, NE where we would decide whether to keep going on or not.

When we got to Sidney we stopped at a truck stop, where we heard that I-80 was closed at Cheyenne, Wyoming. Cheyenne was where we planned to drive to and spend the night in anyway, so we decided to brave the storm and head west. The roads were just wet, and it rained and snowed on us the most of the way, but the roads stayed decent. We stopped at a rest stop between Sidney and Cheyenne and it turned into a huge snowball fight, being that it has been a while since we have seen snow in Iowa. Thankfully we pulled into Cheyenne a little after 7:30 Mountain time, and filled up the tank, paying the lowest price of the trip, $1.74, an amazing $0.37 lower than regular fuel. Trying to find a hotel during a storm turned out to be a daunting task, but we were successful on our third try, and thankful that we were not forced to sleep in the Avalanche.

Tomorrow our task is to get across the Rocky Mountains, where a storm is expected, but more on that on tomorrow’s blog.

Captain’s Blog – Stardate 03.07.06 – Day 2

ICARE at IndyThe E85 Cross Country Tour went through the midwest on Tuesday and got to do some fun things in Indianapolis before landing in Des Moines on Tuesday night. Here is the second installment of their adventures. We will be posting pictures from the trip as soon as we get them. (By the way – I have no idea what “Piddidle!” means – I hope it’s not a bad thing!)
Just added one of the pictures of the group on the track at the Indy – with mega thanks to Whitney Copeland Cole of Indiana AgriNews for sharing a few of her photos. More in a separate post. THANKS WHITNEY!!!

Tuesday, March 7, 2006:Leaving at a nice bright and early time of 7:00 to meet the Ohio Clean Cities Representative Erika Wiggins, a local Columbus radio station, and a NBC TV station affiliate out of Columbus, Ohio, where we filled up the tank. After leaving Hilliard we started the longest day of the trip. Our second stop came about 4 hours into the day in Indianapolis, Indiana, were we filled up at Joe’s Junction, where a very nice man named Gilbert set us up with a very scrumptious meal of fried chicken, pork fritters, potato wedges, and all the fixin’s. Joe’s Junction also footed the bill for the fuel. We were interviewed by a woman named Whitney Cole who is a field editor for AgriNews Publications. After leaving Joe’s Junction, Ms. Cole followed us to the Indianapolis 500 Speedway. We made a call earlier and set up an opportunity of a lifetime. Upon arrival to the Speedway, we entered under the tunnel which went under the speedway. When reaching the other side we were inside the inter oval of the track. The flip of the coin determined the driver, since we could not rotate drivers on the track. We had to follow a lead car carrying Danny Edwards who is in Public Relations for the track, and Ms. Cole rode in there as well. Unfortunately we were only able to go a top speed of about 50 miles per hour. It truly was the opportunity of a life time. We stopped on the second lap to kiss the Brickyard, which is the strip of bricks that lay across the finish line, and is where every winner of a race that is held there, stops and kisses the bricks. After completing the second lap, we went through the pits, and concluded one of the most exciting parts of the trip. When we got back on the road we calculated how many laps we could complete on the track with one tank of E85. We figured that you could complete about 170 laps before running bone dry. We had to put the pedal to the metal to get to the next stop because of how long the day is. The next stop was in Kankakee, IL, were we filled up the tank. This gas station is owned by VeraSun Energy, who is one of our sponsors, and is also the owner of the Ethanol plant in Fort Dodge, IA. Back on the road again, the third stop of the day was in Normal, IL. When we arrived at Normal, IL we were met by 2 local radio stations, the Illinois AgriNews, Illinois Corn Growers, Illinois Farm Bureau and representatives from General Motors. The Illinois Corn Growers purchased our tank of E85. The Illinois Clean Cities purchased snacks and refreshments at the gas station for our long journey ahead. Later that day, we stopped at Hardees and engulfed delicious Angus burgers before we arrived in Des Moines, IA. We arrived at the Heartland Inn at 9:30 p.m. and soon were in a deep slumber. “Piddidle!!!”

“See the USA in your Flex Fuel Chevrolet…”

Captain’s Blog – Stardate 03.06.06 – Day 1

Here is the first of the blog updates from the Cross Country E85 trip. The update was written by Bradley Westrum and emailed to us by Alex Lundgren, who decided to go home when they arrived in Des Moines Tuesday. The rest of the crew, which includes students Ashley Heflin and Tami Davis and teacher/chaperone Jim Richardson, are continuing on their journey to Los Angeles.

March-06-06 Starting our day off waking up around 7, we met in Jim’s room at 8, where we left to go to eat breakfast at a diner on the corner a block away from our hotel. Getting our food faster than expected, we had time to attempt to go fill the Avalanche with E85 before Senator Grassley arrived at the hotel. Unfortunately our attempt to find E85 failed, when we could not find the gas station that sells the fuel. With the driving time consumed trying to find E85- our time was running short, so we decided to head back to the hotel to meet Sen. Grassley. Sen. Grassley arrived with his staff a few minutes after we got back to the hotel parking lot. When Sen. Grassley pulled into the parking lot, he got out and jumped in the Avalanche and Jim got in the car with his staff. Sen. Grassley rode with the students, and directed them the easiest way to the Capital. Upon arrival we went through security, and pulled right up to the steps of the Capital building, then were interviewed by WHO radio, and our picture was taken numerous times in front of the car with the Capitol in the back ground. After complaining enough about not being able to find the station that E85 is available, Bob Dinneen who is the President of the Renewable Fuels Association rode with use to the station, filled up the Avalanche, and paid for it. Mr. Dinneen pointed out that the Pentagon which was just behind the station that we filled up at, faced the area where on 9-11 the terrorist drove the plane into the outer wall. After navigating our way under the instruction of Mr. Dinneen back to the Capitol, we dropped him off, and headed on our way. Just so all you know, navigating Washington D.C. is a daunting task, especially with 5, farm raised Iowans at the helm. Although we found out that Mr. Dinneen who has lived in D.C for more than 30 years can slip up and make a wrong turn. After collecting our things and checking out of our hotel, we started on our way with a full tank of E-85. When leaving D.C we were flagged down by a woman driving a 2001 Pontiac Montana. She waved at us, we rolled down our window, and she asked, “Where can I get that,” of course referring to the huge Ethanol signs and decals on the side of our Avalanche. So we explained to her that she will need to update, and get herself a new Chevrolet. The second fill stop on the trip was in Morgantown, West Virginia. We decided to bypass the town, hopefully cutting out an opportunity to get lost. We went the long way around the town and then back tracked. The map that we followed, lead us down a small, dilapidated dirt road, in hick town. Seeing that there probably wasn’t a gas station that offered E-85 we flagged down what we will call a close relative to Jed Clampet… (Beverly Hillbillies)… We asked him if there was a gas station that has 85% Ethanol, and he proceeded to answer use with, “WHO?” So seeing that this wasn’t going to make much progress we thanked him and turned back towards Morgantown. After finding the right road, we were lucky that there was a person working at this stop. We stopped at Delaney Oil Company, were we dealt with a pioneer in renewable recourses, and a real gem of a guy named Michael L. Kelly. After this stop, we were able to calculate and crunch the first numbers of the trip. We found that this vehicle will bring use no problems when we stretch the stops out when we continue to the west coast. More coverage tomorrow when we continue on the second day of the trip, when we continue through Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa. “Piddidle!!!”

“See the USA in your Flex Fuel Chevrolet…

Students Driving Cross Country On E85

ICARE Group in DCIn case you’ve wondered if you can drive across the U. S. on E85 fuel only the answer is “you can.” Some college students are doing just that as I write. I just spoke with Jim Richardson, Iowa Central Community College, and they’ll wind up in Des Moines tonight after starting out in Washington, DC yesterday morning. He said they had just done a few laps around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway!

I invited Jim to have the students send in daily reports to DomesticFuel that we can use here. I think it would be interesting to see their perspective on the trip and renewable fuels like ethanol. He thinks that after they get in tonight they can send us a report.

Here’s some more information about the trip they’re on:

Beginning on Monday, March 6, 2006, students from the Iowa Central Community College (ICCC) will begin a cross-country trip in a 2005 Chevrolet Avalanche with E85 FlexFuel capability, demonstrating the possibility of coast-to-coast travel solely on E85, a mostly renewable fuel containing 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline.

The students, who are part of the Iowa Central Aggies for Renewable Energy (ICARE), and a chaperone, will start their voyage from Washington D.C., with a scheduled arrival in Los Angeles at noon on Saturday, March 11.

“This is a great demonstration of the increased awareness and availability of renewable fuels such as E85,” said Jim Richardson, lead coordinator and professor at Iowa Central Community College. “With automakers like General Motors producing an abundance of flexible-fuel vehicles, we can help boost our country’s agriculture industry, save the environment, and reduce our dependence on petroleum.”

The students are Tami Davis, Ashley Heflin, Alex Lundgren and Bradley Westrum – posing in the picture with RFA president Bob Dineen, Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Senator Conrad Burns of Montana.

Governors Want More E85 Vehicles

GEC The Governor’s Ethanol Coalition met this week in Washington, DC and passed a resolution urging major auto makers to make more flex-fuel vehicles that can run on 85 percent ethanol. Thirty-two of the country’s governors are members of the coalition, which was formed in 1992 to promote ethanol use. So far only midwestern governors have chaired the organization, but governors of states like New York, Arizona and Washington are listed as members. Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius is the new chairman of the coalition and she was quoted as saying this week, “There’s a new energy behind our efforts to promote biofuels.”
Here are a couple of links to regional stories about the meeting this week.
Wichita Business Journal
Kansas City InfoZine
KXMC-News North Dakota

Stalk Car Race

Chevy pace car General Motors made ethanol history Friday when a Chevy Silverado E-85 Flex Fuel Vehicle (FFV) served as the pace car for the GM Flex Fuel 250 at Daytona race, starting the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race, according to a news release.
“GM is delighted to be able to sponsor the event tonight,” said Ed Peper, Chevrolet general manager. “We are delighted to bring a lot more awareness to the benefits of ethanol to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil.”
Ethanol Promotion and Information Council executive director Tom Slunecka was in Daytona for the event and congratulated General Motors for its success in creating consumer awareness of the value and benefits of ethanol. “GM’s promotion of E-85 fuel is helping to build the infrastructure needed for the ethanol industry to continue growing and replacing millions of barrels of non-renewable oil,” said Slunecka.
GM is really getting into this ethanol thing in a big way. If you haven’t checked out GM’s “Live Green, Go Yellow” website yet, you really should. It’s quite the deal. I would call the whole campaign very farmer friendly. For a little fun, play the Stalk Car Race game on the site. It’s cute – not real challenging, but cute.

It’s Easy to be Green (and Yellow)

Ford Kermit Ford and GM both used Super Bowl XL to kick off new campaigns with domestic fuel themes.
Ford went with a big name star to promote its new Escape Hybrid. The ad, which premiered during the Super Bowl – held appropriately in Detroit’s Ford Field – featured a frog with a familiar face. More ads starring the famous Muppet are scheduled to run this year during popular network television shows such as American Idol, CSI: Miami, and the Barbara Walters Academy Awards Special. You can also expect to see Internet, print and billboard ads featuring Kermit. You can watch the Ford Kermit spot here. Hey – maybe they’ll name a car after him! The Ford Kermit kinda has a nice ring to it…
GM Yellow
While Ford was turning green during the Super Bowl, General Motors was a curious yellow in pre- and post-game commercials, touting its “Live Green, Go Yellow” theme. GM had planned to launch the campaign today as a tie-in to the opening of the Winter Olympics this week, but decided to ride on the momentum of the President’s State of the Union address last week and take off early. The yellow stands for corn and the campaign is promoting GM’s yellow fuel-filler caps on its E85-capable vehicles to raise consumer awareness, starting March 1.

Midwest Ethanol Corridor


Ford Motor Company and VeraSun Energy are working to create a “Midwest Ethanol Corridor” through Illinois and Missouri to increase the availability of E85 fuel. According to a Ford press releaseThe first phase in the creation of the Midwest ethanol corridor is to convert approximately 40 existing gasoline fuel pumps in Illinois and Missouri to E85. FordThe move will increase availability by approximately one-third this year. Ford estimates there are 50,000 owners of Ford flexible fuel vehicles (FFV) in Illinois and 28,000 in Missouri. Ford will work with fuel providers and officials in other states to further develop the Midwest ethanol corridor.

A Day at the NASCAR Races

GM General Motors is giving Nascar E85 a day at the GM FlexFuel 250 races February 17 at Daytona International Speedway. The event is part of GM’s E85 ethanol campaign “Live Green, Go Yellow” announced last month in Washington DC, which is “an innovative partnership designed to promote E85 use and showcase GM’s E85 FlexFuel vehicle leadership to U.S. consumers – including millions of loyal NASCAR fans – throughout the year.” According to a press release from GM, FlexFuel-branded Chevrolet Silverado pickup trucks also will serve as pace vehicles at Daytona and 10 other races on the 25-race NCTS circuit.
“GM and the Chevrolet Silverado brand are dedicated to helping grow an E85 infrastructure in the U.S. ,” said Brent Dewar, GM vice president, North America marketing and advertising . “Leveraging Chevy’s prominent presence in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series helps spread the word as we work to increase consumer awareness of E85 as a domestically produced alternative to imported oil and a way of reducing emissions.”

Escape to E85

The world’s first flex-fuel hybrid vehicle was introduced this week by Ford Motor Company at the Washington Auto Show. The Ford Escape Hybrid E85 is a research vehicle combining two petroleum-saving technologies – hybrid electric power and flexible-fuel capability, according to the company’s news release. Ford officials boast that they have put more than 1.5 million flex-fuel vehicles on America’s roads in the last decade, and our experience with ethanol-fueled vehicles goes all the way back to the days of Henry Ford. The Ford Escape Hybrid E85 research project will aim for breakthroughs that could further expand the appeal of ethanol-capable vehicles.

Honda and Toyota Urged To Market FFVs

The president of the Renewable Fuels Association this week took Honda and Toyota to task for not marketing flex fuel vehicles (FFVs) in the United States. Bob Dinneen wrote letters to the heads of U.S. operations for both car makers asking them to reconsider their decisions.
In the case of Honda, Dinneen questioned the decision in light of the fact that Honda does market FFVs for use in Brazil.
“Honda’s willingness to produce flex-fuel vehicles in Brazil, but not in the U.S., is curious, and it puts your company at a tremendous disadvantage to its American counterparts,” Dinneen wrote
The letter to Toyota refuted comments that the national manager of advanced technology for Toyota’s U.S. operation made in a recent Wall Street Journal article regarding ethanol’s environmental friendliness and sustainability.
“Ethanol has also been a key component of America’s effort to reduce tailpipe emissions,” Dinneen responds in the letter. “Adding ethanol to gasoline dramatically reduces carbon monoxide pollution, and its oxygen content helps to reduce exhaust hydrocarbon emissions as well. Ethanol also helps to reduce combustion chamber deposits. Finally, ethanol is providing refiners with a clean octane alternative to more toxic gasoline additives.”
In both letters, Dinneen also notes that a recent survey found that more than 90 percent of American drivers would prefer an FFV to a conventional gasoline or diesel engine. In addition, Dinneen strongly urged both automakers, who have built strong reputations in the hybrid vehicle market, to incorporate the use of renewable fuels like ethanol in future hybrid technology development.
Here’s a link to the full news release. Copies of the letters are also available there.

Ethanol in the National News

Here’s a couple of national feature stories about ethanol and flex-fuel vehicles (FFVs) that have come out in the last couple of days:

This Knight-Ridder article, dateline Maryland, has the headline “Ethanol gets a push, but road ahead fraught with challenge.” It starts off talking about how E85 is not selling well outside of the midwest unless it is lower in price, but also brings up the fact that there some five million FFV’s on the road, that ethanol production is increasing and that oil companies are the major obstacle to increased ethanol use. This story, which includes quotes from Bob Dinneen at the Renewable Fuels Association and Phil Lampert at the National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition, got some very good distribution nationwide. The link is to the long version of the story, which also includes some international bio-fuels facts at the end of the piece.

This Associated Press article just came out today, dateline Los Angeles. In typical mainstream media fashion, it starts out with the charge that automakers are making more FFVs to “skirt mileage standards.” Not a real positive tone in the story for the industry, but it does point out the number of FFVs on the road, that E85 is often cheaper than gasoline and that car companies are starting to promote their FFVs. It also points people to to find out if their car will run on 85 percent ethanol fuel.

Somebody’s Doing Something Right

Here’s some good news out of Detroit on consumer awareness and acceptance of ethanol and flex-fuel vehicles. An on-line survey by research firm Phoenix Marketing International found that 60 percent are extremely or very familiar with the grain-based fuel. When presented with ethanol’s strengths and weaknesses, more than 90 percent of drivers said they would prefer a flex-fuel vehicle (running on both bio- and fossil-fuels) over a strictly gasoline or diesel version.

Consumers also seem to be getting the message about the benefits of ethanol, according to the survey. Consumers perceive renewable resource (42 percent), clean fuel (24 percent) and produced in America (19 percent) as the most important benefits of ethanol-powered vehicles.

Bill Saunders, president of Phoenix Automotive, says that ethanol could ultimately help increase sales for American auto manufacturers.

“Last year’s fuel price run-up and Middle East crises may have not only hurt American drivers’ pocketbooks but also caused them to feel guilty about operating large, gas-only vehicles,” said Saunders. “Ethanol power not only allows owners to enjoy large vehicles, but it can also let them feel good about the domestic agricultural economy, American energy independence and the environment.”

The survey also questioned which auto manufacturers were seen as extremely or very environmentally sensitive. Sixty percent or more put Honda and Toyota in that category, but 18 percent or less felt the same way about Ford, General Motors and DaimlerChrysler.

The study of more than 2,000 vehicle owners was conducted just last week on-line. Here is the link to the full release.

2007 Tahoe Promotes E85

If you are in a car-buying mood, the new GM 2007 E85 Chevy Tahoe is now available. The new Tahoe is a flex-fuel vehicle capable of running on 85 percent ethanol, which is not really that unique anymore – there are lots of flex-fuel vehicles on the road. What makes it special is that GM has been running an ad campaign in major publications promoting that fact. Advertisements for the 2007 Tahoe ran in the Jan. 4 editions of USA Today and Wall Street Journal stressing the new full-size sport/utility vehicle’s fuel economy, including it’s ability to run on E85. “To my knowledge, this is the first time that any automaker has included a reference to the FFV capability of a vehicle in a national advertisement,” said Ethanol Vehicle Coalition Executive Director Phil Lambert. The ads also direct individuals to the NEVC Web site,, to locate availability of E85.