In a move that USA Today says “could be regarded as economically motivated as well as environmentally aware,” NASCAR will adopt an ethanol blend of fuel beginning with the 2011 Daytona 500. This bit of news was welcomed heartily by the corn ethanol lobby, which is facing the prospect of the ethanol tax credit subsidy expiring at the end of the year as well as consumer confusion at fueling stations across the country, as ethanol blends increase only for specific model-year vehicles.

Like the ethanol industry, NASCAR is struggling, USA Today reports, and chasing “green” dollars looks like a crowd pleaser:

 NASCAR has put an emphasis on recycling (all tires, oils, fluids and batteries used in competition are recycled, and sponsors have helped expand programs in campgrounds) and achieved LEED certification for new office buildings in Charlotte and Daytona Beach.

 But the switch to ethanol might be the most important step in achieving an ancillary benefit — attracting new sponsors in the green economy to cash-strapped teams hurting for funding since the onset of the recession.

The only thing green in this deal is the money changing hands.

NASCAR CEO and Chairman Brian France was vague about NASCAR’s environmental motivations for embracing ethanol. The move would reduce the carbon footprint of a race, he said.

How, exactly? “We’re not exactly certain, but there is a benefit,” he told USA Today.

Here at the Environmental Working Group, we are certain that using corn ethanol as an alternative to gasoline is hardly a sustainable solution to our energy needs. We know that between 2005 and 2009, U.S. taxpayers spent $17 billion to subsidize corn ethanol blends in gasoline, an outlay that produced a paltry reduction in overall oil consumption equal to a 1.1 mile-per-gallon increase in fleetwide fuel economy.