Although NASCAR has made quite a few changes to reduce the races’ impact on the climate, are these efforts completely pointless? A sport that literally revolves around burning fuel and shredding tires can hardly be expected to have the lowest impact on the environment, but is the concept of Green NASCAR just a smokescreen for the actual damages the sport is inflicting upon the environment?
First of all, why is NASCAR, a franchise whose purpose is to entertain, worried about their eco image? A lot of viewers are unaware of the environmental impacts implicated in a single weekend of racing, but NASCAR is not. In a single racing weekend, the cars, which are not restricted by EPA regulations, will emit at least 120,000 pounds, or sixty tons, of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. That puts NASCAR at a carbon footprint of about four million pounds of CO2 per year.
NASCAR created a site specifically designed to point to their climate change press, but the effort may be wasted on their part. “With the support of the Arbor Day Foundation, five areas of recovery have been identified and are waiting for your support in reforesting,” says the site, which begs the question, why NASCAR does not pay to reforest these areas themselves? Asking fans to plant trees is not exactly a winning way to deal with a hefty amount of carbon emissions.
NASCAR is not just asking fans to plant trees, however. As part of NASCAR’s Race to Green initiative, the company will be promoting environmental awareness and buying carbon offsets to accommodate the CO2 that is emitted during every race of the next season. There is no doubt that the company is trying to keep up with the public demand for big corporations to walk the walk and take responsibility for their environmental impact.
Some skeptics may still be asking themselves, however, if NASCAR has been “green-washing” like so many other big corporations; putting up a front of eco-friendliness, while continuing the same old practices. Although the company has offset their fuel emissions for their race cars, every race is manned by vast numbers of support vehicles which give off their own emissions. Each racing team goes through about ten tires every race and it takes seven gallons of fossil fuels to make each and every one.
The NASCAR Green site also claims that their 2011 partnership with Sunoco and the American Ethanol industry was “ground-breaking,” but the partnership was hardly cause for uproar. NASCAR was using poisonous, leaded fuel as recently as 2007, and this new Ethanol-laced fuel actually reduced the fuel’s efficiency per mile. Ethanol is still a highly debated renewable resource in the climate change community, because the corn that is used to make biofuels is bathed in pesticides which leach into clean water systems and pollute the air.
Perhaps it is not surprising that NASCAR is having a hard time cleaning up their act. A sporting event that is sponsored by Goodyear, Mobil 1 and the NCGA can hardly cut all ties with fossil fuels and pesticides without losing a lot of money. As a result, NASCAR is far from addressing the environmental impact of a sporting industry that, despite its popularity, could end up suffering in a global warming-aware society. Although the minimal efforts made by NASCAR to help combat climate change are not pointless, they certainly leave a lot to be desired.
Editorial By Lauren Martin