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    Big Oil Watchdog Proposed in Illinois

    Governor wants Citizen Utility Board to monitor oil companies and push ethanol fuel.

    SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn wants to give the Citizens Utility Board (CUB) watchdog authority over oil companies doing business in Illinois, and plans to push the issue during the fall legislative session, according to a report in the Lincoln (Ill.) Courier.

    Quinn has yet to determine a sponsor for his proposal, but said the veto session set to start Oct. 25 is the perfect time to push his measure, since the current gas prices of $3 and higher will be fresh in the minds of both lawmakers and the public.

    "This is the ideal time to expand the mission of a group that has proven itself with experts that represent the customers," Quinn said in the report.

    Quinn spearheaded a 1982 referendum effort that led to the creation of CUB. The statewide advocacy group created by the legislature in 1983 represents the interests of residential electric, gas and telephone customers and can intervene in rate-making proceedings before the Illinois Commerce Commission and in the courts.

    "Consumers are beleaguered these days on all the energy fronts and can use advocacy on their behalf," CUB executive director Martin Cohen told The Lincoln Courier.

    Quinn said the advocacy efforts of CUB can be used to pressure oil companies to offer more E-85 fuel at their branded fuel stations and persuade more auto manufacturers to produce more flexible-fuel vehicles that can use E-85. The fuel is made up of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline and generally has fewer toxic emissions than regular gas.

    However, a spokesman for the Illinois Petroleum Council said the marketplace would determine how much ethanol was sold.

    "Ethanol is part of the solution, but it's not the entire solution," David Sykuta of IPC said. He noted that 80 percent of the gasoline sold in Illinois contains 10 percent ethanol.

    Sykuta said that 2005 nationwide production of ethanol is projected to total 3.75 billion gallons, while total fuel need is estimated to tally 150 billion gallons.

    Grady Chronister, president of the Springfield-based Chronister Oil Co., which owns the Qik-n-EZ chain of convenience stores, said he installed an E-85 pump at each of his 11 locations about five to six months ago at the urging of state officials.

    "The more alternate forms of energy and transportation, the more viable we'll be,” Chronister said in the report. “We can't just stick our head in the sand on this. From our standpoint, it was just the right thing to do."

    The state offers grants to station owners who install E-85 pumps. Chronister said he received a $2,000 marketing grant for each E-85 pump from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Opportunity.

    A list of service stations that sell E-85 is on the Internet at www.illinoisgreenfleets.org.

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