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    Louisiana Jumps on Ethanol Bandwagon

    State senate approves production of alternative fuel.

    BATON ROUGE, La. -- State senators in Louisiana endorsed legislation that encourages the production of ethanol in the state and requires refineries to produce biofuel blends.

    But the bill plainly states that gas stations don't have to sell it, according to a report in the Shreveport Times.

    With a 32-4 vote, the Senate sent Delhi Rep. Francis Thompson's House Bill 685 back to the House for consideration of amendments that Sen. Robert Barham, R-Oak Grove, attached to the bill over the objections of Commissioner of Agriculture Bob Odom.

    The bill requires that when ethanol plants show they can produce 50 million gallons a year using corn, sugar cane, wood products or animal wastes, refineries have to blend it into gasoline or diesel so 2 percent of their product is biofuels.

    But the bill still includes an amendment attached in the House by Rep. Mickey Frith, D-Kaplan, that says "retailers shall not be required to purchase or sell ethanol or bio-diesel in the state of Louisiana."

    Gov. Kathleen Blanco said she endorsed the measure as a possible way of reducing gasoline prices.

    "The high price of gasoline drew me into it," the governor said after the senate vote. Also, she said she believes using Louisiana products to produce biofuels will help farmers.

    When told that ethanol blends currently sell for higher prices than regular gasoline, Blanco said "give it some time" for increased ethanol supplies to become cheaper.

    Asked about critics who charged that the bill makes Odom an "ethanol czar" because he can control who distributes ethanol through the Department of Agriculture's weights and measures division, the governor said, "Bob Odom's not going to be agriculture commissioner forever. He may be for a lifetime, but not forever."

    Barham's amendments allow Conoco to count the biodiesel it already produces in the state by blending regular diesel with animal fats and vegetable oils as its 2 percent production and says a plant can produce any type of biofuel and doesn't have to do all kinds. The amendments also allow an exception to the six-month deadline for plants to start biofuel production after the target 500 million gallons of ethanol production is reached.

    "It doesn't look like anything we can't work through," Thompson said about Barham's amendments. "It doesn't look like they do irreparable damage" but he will review the changes before asking for House concurrence. "I'm excited it passed."

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