By Steve Riggs, Kentucky State Representative (D) for the 31st district.
In the past, when I bought a vehicle, I went through the same checklist most of us have. I wanted a model I liked in the color I wanted, and I weighed such things as gas mileage, price, safety and comfort. As I readied to a buy a new car this summer, though, I added two other important items that I think we should all consider: Does it increase our country's energy independence, and is it cleaner environmentally? Those last selling points proved to be the deciding factors for me, which is why I drove off the dealer's lot with a flex-fuel car capable of using E-85. My experience since then has been even more rewarding than I had hoped. A round trip from Louisville to Indianapolis, for example, proved the car gets great gas mileage. A quick online search found several major retailers proud to offer E-85 at their stations, with more on the way. E-85 is also less expensive per gallon than traditional gasoline, another plus. All of us like paying 40 to 50 cents less a gallon at the pump. Oil prices may be down compared to a few years ago, but future spikes are inevitable and largely beyond our control. With E-85 and biodiesel, however, we have much more oversight regarding supply, and just as importantly, the money stays here, helping our farmers and those who turn their corn and soybeans into fuel. As a longtime state legislator, and as chairman of the Kentucky House of Representatives' Local Government Committee, I am always looking for ways to help our citizens do more for their community and our commonwealth, and in the last decade or so, I am proud to say we have truly embraced the growing frontier of alternative, renewable fuels. We now have facilities producing millions of gallons of ethanol and biodiesel annually, and we built the nation's first two schools designed to be energy-neutral over a calendar year. The University of Louisville has an alternative-energy research center funded by the state's single-largest private donation to a public school; and Kentucky has partnered with a federal research lab to lead the way in battery research. Late last year, the state gave the go-ahead for the first public, large-scale solar station, which will power the equivalent of 8,000 homes. The growing availability of E-85 fuel gives the public the chance to build on these positive gains in a way that is remarkably easy and affordable. My hope is that more Kentuckians will add this to their list the next time they buy a vehicle. They won't regret it.