Baltimore Green Prix? Hardly

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Whatever words you’d pick to describe the upcoming Baltimore Grand Prix (thrilling? irritating? disruptive? speedy?), you probably wouldn’t settle on “sustainable.” But believe it or not, the event’s promoters are trying to re-brand the race as the — wait for it — Baltimore Green Prix.  And they’re proclaiming that the entire Festival of Speed will be “carbon neutral with zero net waste by 2015.” Forgive us if that seems highly unlikely.

First of all, consider the gas. These cars get less than two miles per gallon, and burn more than a gallon per lap. Then there’s the fact of the fuel itself:  while NASCAR only recently made the switch from super-toxic leaded gas (yike!), these cars run on more-renewable ethanol, a corn based fuel, which gets its own share of criticism for raising food prices (and, according to some, spurring global unrest). But the bigger impact may come from the cars of fans driving to the race itself. Then, of course, there’s the trash:  the Indianapolis 500 produces 500 tons of garbage, only about 4 percent of which gets recycled.

But, hey, maybe the organizers really want the Baltimore Grand Prix to be different. So what happens when you go to the Grand Prix website and click on “Carbon Footprint and Offsets”? Ahem. “Coming soon.” Other parts of the website include vague, wordy statements about the importance of the abstract quality of “greenness.” And then there’s the matter of all those  trees they cut down to make room for spectator stands…

Ultimately, the promoters seem to be saying that racing is good for the environment because it encourages car makers to make cars more light, powerful, efficient, and aerodynamic. “These advancements, which are accelerated when automobile manufacturers test them in a racing environment, ultimately transfer to and improve the performance of their street car, benefiting and helping to support a cleaner, greener environment.”

Look. Some of the most fun things in life are horribly damaging to the environment. It would be less irritating (to me, at least) if the Grand Prix didn’t attempt to convince us otherwise; go ahead and guzzle that gas, and don’t pretend that you’re going to figure out a way to make it “zero-impact” and “carbon neutral” in the next four years. It would be more honest, at least — but until I see real evidence pointing otherwise, I’m going to go ahead and say that the “Green Prix” is anything but.

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