Car enthusiasts too easily become punching bags for environmentalists. As the racing season cranks back up along with back yard BBQs, here are some talking points that you can use when an eco-weenie blasts you with, "How can you like such a pointless activity that's killing the planet?"
While you could respond by asking them to cut their own C02 emissions, perhaps a more productive comeback would be mentioning land-speed records of environmentally friendly vehicles. In 1994, a modified GM EV1 set a new record in Texas at 183 mph. In August of 2007, a hydrogen-powered fuel cell Ford Fusion ran 207 mph at Bonneville. Like the EV1, the Fusion was a pure-electric car, driven by electric motors. These points prove there's common ground between you and "them," especially when you note that what's learned by these racing programs help advance production models.
The environmentally minded might also be interested in learning about world of electrically powered racing. It's expanding thanks to work of groups like the National Electric Drag Racing Association. Back in October of 2008, cycle pilot Scotty Pollacheck set a new world's record for an electrically-powered motorcycle with an E.T. of 7.89 seconds for the quarter mile. He tripped the lights going 168 mph.
Prefer to burn corn instead of electrons? Another solid talking point is that the IndyCar Series began running American-grown ethanol in 2007. Skip Brown, the IRL's Media Relations Manager told us that by the end of the 2009 season, the switch from methanol will have saved the earth some 60,000 fewer gallons of fossil fuel.
Even NASCAR is going green, thanks largely in part to race legend Jack Roush. Roush participates in NASCAR through his relationship with Roush Fenway Racing. While the team's cars continue to guzzle gasoline through primitive four-barrel carburetors, the racing team itself is going green in meaningful ways.
"The nature of our business is one that we use gas and metals," said Roush, "but that doesn't mean we should ignore the environment. We've been doing things like recycling, looking into alternative fuels, and working on innovated building design features for several years and we will continue to look at what we can do to improve the environment."
For example, at Roush Fenway's 25-acre campus, structures feature solar shades on southern exposure to reduce solar heat gain and glare; interior lighting controlled by individual occupancy and photoelectric sensors to reduce electrical usage; motion activated plumbing fixtures to reduce potable water use; and rain and storm water run off captured and contained for landscape irrigation reducing the need for potable water. Roush Fenway uses no city water -- they have their own wells and storm water reclamation.
In addition, Roush Fenway is moving forward with plans for utilizing Building Integrated Photovoltaic laminates that will produce 13,710kWh per year of electricity for to power their campus, with the excess being sold back to the utilities companies.
While racing and the environmental movement may seem to be at odds, it's clear that it is possible to enjoy racing and be green at the same time.