Lt. Governor Drives Away With New E-85 Tahoe

Ag secretary Skillman setting pace for ethanol promotion. Tom J. Bechman

Published on: May 25, 2006

Next time you see Lt. Governor Becky Skillman 'around town,' she may not be wearing a racing helmet. But she will likely be riding in a Chevy Tahoe fueled by E-85. That's a blended fuel that contains 85% ethanol.

Skillman's E85 vehicle used last year burned 1,200 gallons of E85 as she made her way around Indiana. For this year, General Motors has loaned the State of Indiana a new Chevy E-85 Tahoe specifically for her use. She accepted the keys during formalities at the first Indy Racing League Ethanol Summit held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Thursday, May 25.

"Indiana is no longer playing catch-up in the area of biofuels. We are emerging as a national leader," Skillman says. "But the success of biofuels depends on average Hoosiers and average Americans. We need to create a culture in which it is natural for all motorists to use biofuels. We hope to drive this message home as we travel across the state in our E-85 Tahoe."

The setting for the presentation was appropriate since cars running in the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday will have 10% ethanol in their fuel for the first time at the 500. The Indy Racing League remains committed to running cars on 100% ethanol for all races next year.

That stands in spite of the loss of one of ethanol's chief supporters, race driver Paul Dana, in an accident earlier this year. The Ethanol car supported by EPIC, an ethanol promotion group, and the Illinois Corn Growers Association, is entered in this year's race.

The Illinois Corn Growers stepped forward to sponsor an event in Indiana because Indiana Corn Growers have very limited funds, with a weak checkoff compared to that in Illinois. Legislative efforts to create a stronger checkoff collection system in Indiana, but maintain it as a voluntary checkoff failed when Senator Johnny Nugent, R, Lawrenceburg, refused to hear the bill in committee. He heads the Indiana Senate Ag Committee. Farmers in his district told him they were opposed to the bill as proposed. One farmer told Indiana Prairie Farmer that if the state was to upgrade its checkoff, farmers ought to have the right to vote up or down on it upfront, not have it hoisted on them by the state.

Meanwhile, the state is pushing to make E-85 more available to regular motorists too, Skillman promised. The first E-85 public pump opened in Terre Haute last May. There are 30 pumps open today, with a commitment for 19 more to open soon. That would surpass the administration's goal of 40 E-85 pumps in Indiana by the end of '06.