Indy 500 Race Fans Line Up for Ethanol

Team Ethanol IndyCar Driver Ryan Hunter-Reay autographs a hat for EPIC membersThe Ethanol tent and mobile unit display at the 92nd Indianapolis 500 is a big hit with race fans. When I dropped by there was a large crowd lined up to sign up their email address and consumer information with ethanol. Those that stopped by could also jump in the seat of a Team Ethanol IndyCar replica, play some racing videogames and pick up a tiny replica of the No. 17 car.

2008 Indy 500 Photo Album

EPIC Members Get to Know Team Ethanol Driver Ryan Hunter-Reay

Team Ethanol IndyCar Driver Ryan Hunter-ReayHe was named rookie of the year for the 2007 IRL season. Ryan is also in the running to be the Rookie of the Year for the 2008 Indy 500.

The 92nd Indianapolis 500 marks the biggest race of Ryan Hunter-Reay’s career to date. Ryan began racing for Team Ethanol last year, making his IndyCar Series debut at Mid-Ohio. That means his rookie run was seven races after last year’s Indy 500 event.

Nonetheless, Ryan set a new record when he became the 2007 IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year with the fewest racing starts. The Team Ethanol driver is also in the running to be the Indy 500 Rookie of the Year since this is his first time competing at the world’s largest racing event.

Ryan spoke to members of the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council Saturday evening. He told members he was honored not only to compete for Team Ethanol, but to represent ethanol in the public eye.

Ryan says he is looking to give Team Ethanol its best ever Indy 500 finish. Having spent the past month at the track, Ryan says he’s definitely comfortable going into today’s race. Though, he says, driving the 2.5 mile oval at Indy does take some getting used to, especially when going around turn one at 233 mph: “You have to have trust in the car. That’s the hardest part. And when they crash it hurts bad, you know?” Ryan was referring to his crash during Indy 500 qualifying earlier this month.

Team Ethanol IndyCar Driver Ryan Hunter-Reay autographs a hat for EPIC membersBut, he was quick to point out that when the car’s dialed in and everything is running smoothly, “It actually does feel like you’re flying low… it’s amazing those cars can do that really. Cause you don’t believe in it. Until you’re actually in the corner with 4 Gs loaded up and you get out of it.”

Ryan applauded the Team Ethanol strategy and pointed out that his pit crew has proven to be a great crew for making the car better during a race at the pit stops.

He says the biggest competitors out on the track for this year’s Indy 500 are the Ganassi cars, but he insists that he can run with the best of them. He reminded members that, after some quick fixes to the Team Ethanol car mid-race, he was the fastest car out on the track at Milwaukee.

Ryan outlined the benefits of burning ethanol on the track, like better gas mileage, smaller fuel tanks, faster speeds and improved torque. He explained that he got his start in racing through karting, which is a hobby he says he still loves.

You can listen to Ryan’s speech to EPIC members here:

2008 Indy 500 Photo Album

Celeb Spotting at the Indy Festival Parade

Patricia Heatong at the 2008 IPL Festival ParadeEverybody Loves Raymond fans had an exciting morning at the IPL Festival Parade today. Patricia Heaton was one of more than a dozen celebrities that appeared before parade-goers. Jenna Elfman of Dharma and Greg also starred in the parade as did Dancing with the Stars‘ Julianne Hough, 98 Degrees singer Drew Lachey, soap-opera star Alison Sweeney, Indiana Pacers players Jeff Foster and Danny Granger, Indiana Fever players Tamika Catchings and Katie Douglas, Congressional Medal of Honor recipients Corporal Tibor Rubin and Retired Lt. Col. Bruce P. Crandall, and more. Even SLASH from Guns n’ Roses rode past.

Team Ethanol Driver Ryan Hunter-Reay at the 2008 IPL Festival ParadeBut, of course ethanol fans were most excited to see Team Ethanol Driver Ryan Hunter-Reay. Ryan rode with his girlfriend in a 2008 Indy Pace Car corvette signed by racing legend Emerson Fittipaldi. He is starting 20th in tomorrow’s race.

By the way, Emerson was also in the parade and will be the official pace car driver for the 2008 Indy 500.

2008 Indy 500 Photo Album

“E-logo” a Hit with Kids

2008 IPL Festival ParadeThe green ethanol flags were a hit with the crowd at the 2008 IPL Festival Parade, especially with the kids. Spectators could spot “e” flags waving at Monument Circle and along the parade route. Some kids were using the flags as drumsticks, beating in time to the college and high school bands that marched past. Well, keeping time in their heads at least. But, the kids weren’t the only ones eager to get there hands on one. Just as one of the brand ambassadors handed out the last flag, a woman came up demanding one for herself. She wasn’t too happy to find out there were none left!

2008 Indy 500 Photo Album

Promoting Ethanol at the Indy Festival Parade

2008 IPL Festival ParadeIndyCar drivers, celebs, models, Olympic gold medalists and more can all be spotted at the IPL Festival Parade. That’s a big reason why it’s such a huge event. This year was the second-straight year for a sell out crowd.

EPIC brand ambassadors at the 2008 IPL Festival ParadeThe Ethanol Promotion and Information Council took advantage of the large crowds and sent brand ambassadors to the parade. Young girls sporting the “e-logo” handed out ethanol schwag including little green ethanol flags and a bag of informational brochures.

2008 Indy 500 Photo Album

A Glimpse of the Team Ethanol Cockpit

EPIC members get privileged access to the Team Ethanol garage at the 2008 Indy 500EPIC members got VIP access to the Team Ethanol garage today. As part of the pre-race festivities the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council sets up early morning tours for member reps. A special pass gives members privileged access and allows them to get an up close look at Team Ethanol’s two cars. Steve Wolf pointed out the defining features of the two IndyCars and described what it’s like to be behind the wheel.

Wolf said this is the first year the IRL is using paddle shifting. Until last year, IndyCar drivers had to take one hand off the wheel in order to shift gears with a stick shift. Now, they can keep both hands on the wheel while they shift with a paddle on either side of the steering wheel.

IndyCar fuel tanks are smaller since the League switched to ethanol. Ethanol gets better mileage than the previous IRL fuel, methanol. Steve explained the League needed to make the tanks smaller so the fuel didn’t outlast the tires. The smaller tank, ultimately means less weight, allowing IndyCars to achieve higher top speeds.

Steve Wolf demonstrates the new paddle shifting features on the IndyCar steering wheel to EPIC members at the Team Ethanol garage the day before the 2008 Indy 500Steve says the pit window opens up about every 25 laps and he expects about eight to nine pits during this year’s Indy 500. Pit stops average between seven and nine seconds. Steve says the Team Ethanol pit crew is among the best in the League.

An IndyCar isn’t exaclty the most comfortable car out there to drive. Steve says the cockpit is a snug fit, with the IndyCar seat molded specifically for the driver. Ryan had to sit in the cockpit for three hours in order to get his customized seat, which Steve says is just a quarter inch thick at the bottom. Not much cushioning for a race that lasts a few hours!

Ryan will have no air conditioning in the cockpit. Steve explained the a/c was taking up too much horsepower so they had to lose it. An expected temp of 80 degrees during the race on Sunday means Team Ethanol expects it will be about 90 degrees on the track. When you consider to the fire jumpsuit Ryan will be wearing, you can imagine how hot it could get with no a/c. But, Wolf assures us that Ryan will have enough water to keep hydrated during the 200-lap race.

2008 Indy 500 Photo Album

Biodiesel Boat Heading Across Pacific

If you think you’ve got a long drive this Memorial Day Weekend, check out what these travelers have ahead of them.

Earthrace, a biodiesel-powered boat trying to set a record for circling the globe on water, is somewhere between Hawaii and the Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean. According to this story posted on, it has not exactly been smooth sailing:

At 0400 GMT on Thursday the port engine high pressure fuel line began leaking at a joint. A bio-diesel mist filled the engine bay. Pete Bethune, the New Zealand skipper shut down the engine and Earthrace continued on the 2050 nautical mile leg with just one engine at 14-15 knots.

A liquid medal repair was attempted but after the 12 hour cure time and the port engine was brought back on line but the leak failed under the 30,000 psi.

But the Earthrace is still more than 2,000 miles ahead of schedule. In fact, if you read the latest entry on the captain’s blog, he talks about a cornflake eating contest between crew members John and Rob:

John, is halfway through his fifth bowl as well, but he looks even worse than Rob.
“Actually Rob I’m willing to concede”, he says slowly. “I’ve had enough cornflakes to last a lifetime. I just hope I make it through the night.”
Rob raises his arms in the air. “England one, USA nil”, he says triumphantly.

You can follow the Earthrace’s progress and read the captain’s blog at

U.S.’s Largest Biodiesel Refinery to Open Soon

The nation’s single largest biodiesel plant to date is set to open in early June.

GreenHunter Energy’s 105 million gallon “white-water” B100 plant is planned to open on June 2nd at the company’s Houston location. According to this press release, several federal, state and local officials, including Texas Governor Rick Perry, U.S. Dept. of Energy Deputy Secretary Jeff Kupfer, and Houston Mayor Pro Tem Adrian Garcia, will join company officials in a grand opening ceremony:

The converted waste-oil refinery on the Houston Ship Channel gives GreenHunter’s renewable fuels campus direct deepwater access and the ability to transport products via barge, rail, and truck. Generators at the site will provide enough electricity for GreenHunter to sell unneeded power back to the grid. GreenHunter’s campus also includes basic terminal operations and 700,000 barrels of storage capacity for feedstock management.

By producing biodiesel from multiple feedstocks, including non-edible sources such as tallow and jatropha, GreenHunter offers practical solutions to the ongoing “food versus fuels” debate.

The press is invited to the event:

WHERE: GreenHunter Energy Renewable Fuels Campus
13605 Industrial Rd.
Houston, TX 77015
*On site parking provided for media

WHEN: Monday, June 2, 2008 from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m.
10 – 10:25 a.m. Press Conference & Grand Opening
10:25 – 10:45 a.m. Guided Refinery Walking Tour
10:45 – 11 a.m. Media Availability

NBB: Biodiesel & Ethanol Help Your Wallet

The National Biodiesel Board wants to remind Americans as they get on the road for the long, Memorial Day Weekend, that biofuels… biodiesel, in particular… are helping keep the price of a gallon of fuel from carving out an even larger portion of your wallet.

The NBB cites new information from the International Energy Agency that says that, globally, biofuels are replacing a million barrels of crude oil a day… more than $130 million daily. And commodity analysts say gas prices would be about 15 percent higher if not for the green fuels.

The real costs for fuels, according to this NBB release, are rising crude oil prices and restricted supplies; tight refining capacity; increasing transportation costs of hauling petroleum-based products; and higher federal excise taxes on diesel fuel compared to gasoline:

Biodiesel is uniquely positioned to offset all of these costs in the following ways:

* As a drop-in replacement for diesel fuel, biodiesel blends can extend our diesel fuel supply. If we replaced 5 percent of our on-road petroleum diesel fuel with biodiesel, this would replace about 1.85 billion gallons of diesel fuel a year, or the entire amount of diesel fuel currently refined from crude oil imported from Iraq. Continue reading

NE Corn Fights Anti-Ethanol Campaigns

Nebraska Corn Growers Assn.Nebraska Corn BoardThe Nebraska Corn Board and Nebraska Corn Growers Association (NeCGA) announced today that they applaud the bipartisan group of Senators who have spoken out against the misinformation campaign that targets corn producers and the corn ethanol industry as being behind a rise in food prices.

The group of six Senators, organized by Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley (R), met in Washington D.C. to discuss many of the issues raised by ethanol critics and to help set the record straight on the benefits of biofuels. This is in response to the reported anti-ethanol campaign being brought about by the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA).

“Study after study has demonstrated that high fuel and energy prices are a major factor in higher food prices. If you take away ethanol, fuel prices will increase even more and food prices will follow,” said Jon Holzfaster, a corn and cattle producer from Paxton and chairman of the Nebraska Corn Board. “That is one of the important points the Senators made, and we couldn’t agree more.”

Randy Uhrmacher, president of NeCGA and a corn producer from Juniata, said that attempts to mislead the American public are unfortunate because they create turmoil in a food supply system that provides the safest and cheapest food in the world. “Food companies and farmers would be better off working together to find solutions to the real cause of higher food prices – our reliance on oil,” he said.

NeCGA and the Corn Board said they will continue providing the facts about food and fuel on their internet sites, and, and in other communication efforts.

LifeLine Foods Just Happens to Sell Ethanol

LifeLine Foods President and CEO Bill BeckerOne of the largest snack suppliers in the U.S. is also the supplier of ethanol fuel for the Indy Racing League. Yup, LifeLine Foods is fueling and feeding the American public. Bill Becker, president and CEO of Lifeline, says that’s just the tip of the iceberg. LifeLine is investing in technology that will allow the company to do much more than just snack food and biofuel. Bill says his company can also remove fiber and protein from the same corn crop that it extracts snack foods and ethanol. These nutrients, he says, could potentially serve as a supplement to the world’s hungry. And that’s still not everything Bill says LifeLine can do with corn.

The story of how a small, farmer-owned company based out of St. Joseph, MO can provide snacks for major food companies, fuel one of the world’s most presitigious motor sports and more is quite a remarkable one. You can listen to my interview with Bill and hear his story about LifeLine here:

2008 Indy 500 Photo Album

Ethanol Supports the 6 “Fs”

UNICA President Marco JankThe discussion on ethanol should be about fuel plus food plus feed plus fibers plus fruits plus forests. At least, that’s what the president of UNICA thinks. Marco Jank spoke at yesterday’s Ethanol Summit and explained how ethanol has become not just a major fuel source in Brazil but also a stimulating proponent in many other industries, particularly food. Marcos adds that as technology continues to progress, the Brazilian ethanol industry will continue to grow. There’s no question. And, he says there’s no question that it will be the same for the U.S. In fact, he says the American ethanol industry is already growing at a faster rate than that of Brazil.

Marcos says, “technology is the solution” for combating a rising scarcity in oil. While he says that ethanol won’t ever become a big competitor with oil, he says it will and should become a leading alternative to oil. He urges leaders in the ethanol industry to appeal to the pulbic and encourage them to make biofuels a part of a worldwide solution to the oil crisis. Marcos says 100 countries have the potential of developing significant ethanol idustries, which in turn, allows for a “more deomocratic and less problematic” solution to the world’s energy needs.

I spoke with Marcos just after the summit. We talked about how ethanol has become a substantial fuel source in Brazil, why Marcos thinks the U.S. should open its doors to imported ethanol and the fuel’s virtually untapped potential in the U.S. You can listen to my interview here:

2008 Indy 500 Photo Album

Ethanol Industry Fights Back

RFA PodcastThe Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) is working hard to combat the campaign against ethanol by food manufacturers and petroleum companies which continues to increase. In this Ethanol Report podcast, President and CEO Bob Dinneen says they have hired new staff and opened a new office and he believes that in the end the facts will prevail.

You can subscribe to the twice-monthly “The Ethanol Report” by following this link.

Or you can listen to it on-line here:

Ethanol: Official Fuel of Indy Racing and Indy Racing Legends

Indy Racing Legend Emerson Fittipaldi at the 2008 Ethanol SummitMany consider Emerson Fittipaldi, a two-time Indy 500 champ, “a true King of the Brickyard.” But not only is Emerson an IRL legend, he’s a BIG supporter of ethanol. Perhaps even a “King of Ethanol.” Emerson is a Brazilian ethanol producer and spoke at yesterday’s Ethanol Summit hosted by General Motors.

The IRL racing legend told the story of his long history, not just with racing, but also racing with ethanol. Although the IRL fully switched from methanol to ethanol last year, Emerson is well acquainted with racing on the biofuel. At age 14, the Indy champ used ethanol in motorcycles and go-karts.

Emerson will get another chance to represent ethanol at the at the races. He is this year’s flex-fuel Corvette Z06 pace car driver. This is the first time the official Indy pace car will run on E85.

“The message of the pace car will be showing to the world that a passenger car even a high performance car like the corvette will run E85 and runs beautiful”,” Emerson said.

He added that the Indy Racing League itself is setting a worldwide example “of how a motor race can show the world, show the public how efficient the engines run with ethanol.” He called the IRL’s switch to 100 percent ethanol, “the endorsement of ethanol in the world through motor race.”

Just after the Summit I spoke with Fittipaldi one-on-one about racing with ethanol as a boy and being a part of ethanol’s growing success in Brazil today. You can listen to my interview here:

2008 Indy 500 Photo Album