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    Ethanol Gas May Be Only Option in Missouri

    Petro association warns new bill could raise prices.

    JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- All Missouri drivers could have corn in their gas tank if a bill requiring all gasoline sold after Jan. 1, 2007 to be blended with at least 10 percent ethanol passes, reported Columbiamissourian.com. Ethanol is a renewable fuel made from fermented agricultural products, such as corn.

    The sponsor of the bill, Sen. John Cauthorn, said in the report that he filed the bill to provide a safe, clean renewable fuel that would create less dependency on foreign fuels.

    "We will have energy that is made right here in Missouri. We will not be sending as many dollars overseas. They will be kept right here in our state," he said.

    Billy Gwaltney, general manager of Mid-Missouri Energy, an ethanol plant in Malta Bend, Mo., told Columbiamissourian.com that it makes sense for the Midwest and the United States to start using renewable fuel and to become less dependent on foreign energy.

    "Right now the United States is limited in its refining capacity. Blending 10 percent ethanol into unleaded gas is like getting a 10 percent expansion in your refining capacity without spending any more capital," Gwaltney said.

    But Missouri Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association executive director Ronald Leone said the bill has the potential to raise gasoline prices. Leone told Columbiamissourian.com the extra hurdles the fuel industry would have to endure to provide the ethanol blend could drive up the cost.

    "When you require fuel to have a special ingredient, that requires extra work, which has extra costs," Leone said in the report. "It would reflect badly on my industry, as well as cause my industry a lot of tension and a lot of extra hard work."

    However, Gwaltney said ethanol is a cost-effective, inexpensive fuel. He said corn is much cheaper than crude oil that unleaded gasoline is made from, which has been at record high prices, according to Columbiamissourian.com.

    Cauthorn told Columbiamissourian.com that if this bill were passed last year, petroleum products would have been cheaper. He said the price range of ethanol this year without tax ranged from $1 to $2 a gallon.

    In addition, Gwaltney said the 10 percent ethanol mandate would benefit corn producers and create higher corn production. "It is likely we would see soybean acres converted to corn acres because there is a better market. It is very profitable," he said in the report.

    Gwaltney reported there would be no shortage of corn supply if the bill passed. Currently, there are three operating ethanol plants in Missouri and construction is under way in Mexico, Mo. for a fourth plant, Columbiamissourian.com reported.

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