A recent poll indicates that one of the most read news topics in America these days is gasoline prices. Given the dramatic shifts in fuel prices, including an all-time high during the setbacks caused by hurricanes in the South, it's no wonder.
Many motorists have newly discovered that there is a cost-saving option when purchasing fuel: ethanol.
Gasoline blended with ethanol -- usually 15 percent ethanol and 85 percent gasoline -- costs less at the pump. In Cape Girardeau County, there are convenience stores selling super unleaded ethanol-blend fuel at several cents a gallon less than regular unleaded gasoline without ethanol.
And there is a growing move to the use of straight ethanol, an alternative that results in significant cost-per-gallon savings. Only some vehicles, however, can use the 100 percent ethanol as fuel currently available only at a few locations, and motorists should check before filling up.
With increasing interest in ethanol comes the need to produce more of it, which is derived from corn. In 2004, 3.4 billion gallons of ethanol were produced in the United States. Three ethanol plants operating in Missouri produce 105 million gallons a year.
Against this backdrop, there was considerable interest earlier this week with the announcement of plans to build an ethanol plant in Scott County that will produce 100 million gallons a year, nearly as much as the three existing plants combined and one of the largest ethanol plants in the nation.
Farmers who grow corn in Southeast Missouri, potential investors and elected officials regard the proposed plant as a positive move for this area of the state, where agriculture is a major industry and where corn supplies are plentiful.
In addition, an ethanol plant -- this one is expected to cost $175 million -- would be a major boost in the area's economy, providing construction jobs and eventually employment for 50 to 60 workers.
Given the enthusiastic response to this week's announcement, it appears highly likely this venture will be successful.