At Attica Speedway in Ohio, racer Lee Jacobs signs an autograph for a fan, after he let th
CT: Is it safe to say that one of the goals of the Green Racing program is to promote a message of petroleum displacement?
LS: Ultimately that's what you want to get. You want biofuels, you want renewable cellulosic ethanol. You want biodiesels that are produced from cellulosic materials. There are so many potential crops and sources for these types of fuels. The feedstock could be scraps from forestry projects, it could be residue after the harvest of plants, there are multiple sources.
We have projects that took used vegetable oil from cooking fryers at fast food restaurants and turned it into diesel fuel that can be burned in a normal diesel engine without any modification.
At the Department of Energy we have a very large program working on biofuels, trying to come up with the best way to produce these fuels and then take those processes and implement them in commercial facilities in the U.S. I've seen projects that take used newspapers and other scrap paper products and turn it into E85. There are really an unlimited amount of feedstocks that can be turned into fuel in this country without pumping oil out of the ground.
The Hudson Hornet was arguably the epitome of the "Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday" attitude
CT: How far along is it? You mentioned earlier that gasoline has had 90-plus years to be developed as a fuel.
LS: Exactly, gasoline over the years, has obviously been refined. The chemical composition of gasoline has changed over the years to try and make it less environmentally damaging but the point with gasoline is it comes from petroleum which is pulled out of the ground. That's a limited resource and in some instances reports are saying that with the amount of petroleum reserves that exist in the world today we may only have 30 to 40 years of supply left. At the same time we have countries like India, China, and others where their increase in usage of petroleum fuels is huge. The best way to avoid any potential future scenario where we as a country wouldn't have the fuel that we need is to not need that fuel.
CT: Corn-based ethanol being an option?
LS: Ethanol from corn products has been around for decades, but right now it's more of a transitional fuel. If you can get the corn-based ethanol infrastructure in place as these new processes to use cellulosic materials and feedstocks come online, when those new processes are ready to be fed into the system you can drop off the corn-based products and one day totally get away from using any potential food product in ethanol production process.
CT: So, if the ultimate goal is cellulosic fuel how do we get there from here?
LS: We have multiple activities going on right now with different pilot plants that have been set up around the country. There are even several larger full-scale production facilities that are under way right now to produce ethanol from cellulosic materials. So it's just a matter of time. We don't have 90 years to develop this process. We need to do it quickly and we can develop the best process in the world, but if nobody wants to use the end product what good have we done?
So that's another reason for the green racing and another reason for the education-we have to show people that I can be fast, I can be green, and I can save money. Cellulosic fuels are a great opportunity to do that.
CT: What are some other vehicle technologies DOE is working on?
LS: Just in the vehicle technology group alone we've got a fuels group that's looking at the best way to utilize fuels, that's everything from natural gas to new diesel blends to hydrogen and of course ethanol fuels and different blend rates with gasoline.
We have a combustion group that's looking at ways to improve the efficiency of internal combustion engines, boosting diesels even further than they are now and making sure that changes are made so that they'd be 100 percent reliable, regardless of the feedstock of the diesel fuel going into that engine. They're also doing work on internal combustion hydrogen-fueled engines. There are many different activities going in that group.