Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Oxymoron of the day: Green NASCAR?

Yep, that's right. NASCAR is going green. How can the sport of cars going around a track for no purpose other than the sole enjoyment of going (or watching someone else go) really fast (hopefully faster than the other guy) be going green? Are they getting a bunch of electric Tesla Roadsters to race? As Ryan McGee of ESPN reported in his article, Darrell Walltrip (three-time Cup winner who's turned his talent into his new role as a TV analyst) says "The coolest thing about these cars is the noise...Forty-three electric cars rolling by going 'weeeeeee' just isn't all that cool."

So no. They're not doing that. Instead, they're looking to an invasive plant, the kudzu. In a nut shell, they'd take kudzu, mash it up into ethanol...

And turn NASCAR from this... Into this....

(Some of you might know that NASCAR has been using ethanol and ethanol blends for some time...however, this has all been corn based. And corn isn't necessarily stellar biofuel stuffs.) Just to give you a little background around this crazy kudzu was introduced to the US in 1876 from its native Japan with the hope of being a food source, as well as ornamental groundcovering.

Unfortunately, the kudzu took a little bit too well to American soil - between 1935 and 1950, the Soil Conservation Service encouraged farmers in the southeastern United States to fight soil erosion by planting kudzu. And then it took over. And I mean, it REALLY took over. This bad boy can grow a foot a day. Yeah, you heard me - 12 inches a day! Holy crap, is right. It's had devastating effects on the environs of the southeastern US, consuming vehicles, homes, and choking the life out of trees and other plants.

But have no fear! Your children, your homes, your cars...they will all be saved. By NASCAR!

In all might not be a terrible biofuel. According to Dr. Rowan Sage, a professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Toronto, kudzu could be a solid option. Growing it would clearly be a snap because it's so voracious all on its own. Harvesting existing "crops" would (hopefully) help restore some ecosystems. And if the fuel is at all efficient....perhaps we've found the silver lining to the "plant that ate the South."

Original here

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