Indy Defends Ethanol Choice

Cindy Zimmerman

The Brazilian ethanol industry will remain the fuel sponsor of the Indy Racing League in 2009, but the ethanol will come from the United States – at least for the first year.

That is a compromise of sorts announced by IRL after meeting with corn ethanol industry representatives.

The multi-year partnership between the IndyCar Series and APEX-Brasil — a trade promotion agency that will be the official ethanol supplier to the series beginning in 2009 – includes cooperation from UNICA (the Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association) to identify those interested in supplying ethanol.

Initially, UNICA will look to partner with a U.S. company to supply the IndyCar Series with American-produced corn-based ethanol.

Corn growers are other domestic ethanol interests are unhappy with the Brazilian deal, but ultimately it came down to a decision by the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council (EPIC) to not sponsor the racing series for the next season. EPIC is “ceasing operation,” as the IRL statement notes, in that it will no longer exist as EPIC but as part of the newly formed Growth Energy group. However, the decision to stop sponsorship was made independently of that new direction – not just because it was expensive, but also because it had essentially served it’s purpose in proving ethanol as a performance fuel.

Terry Angstadt, president of the commercial division of the Indy Racing League, said they made the deal with Brazil because “No one from any other part of the American-based ethanol community stepped forward with a substantial proposal” although several other producers reportedly offered their services as suppliers last week.

Angstadt says opportunities still exist for American ethanol companies and organizations to continue involvement in the IndyCar Series. “We look forward to working with American producers and Brazilian producers of ethanol to promote ethanol as a renewable energy source and part of the solution to lessen the United States’ reliance on Middle Eastern oil,” he said.

EPIC, Ethanol, Indy Racing