Blunt pressures Mo. legislature to pass ethanol gas bill

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Forcing oil companies to mix ethanol with every gallon of gasoline sold in Missouri will stimulate farms and rural development, Gov. Matt Blunt said Wednesday in a stop in Cape Girardeau.

Blunt flew across the state to increase pressure on the Missouri Legislature to pass a bill mandating the 10 percent mix of ethanol into every gallon of gas. He was joined by representatives from farm groups and, at the local stop, by supporters of a proposed ethanol plant near Sikeston, Mo.

"I want Missouri to be a leader in alterntive fuels," Blunt said.

Ethanol plants in Missouri currently produce 115 million gallons annually. The plants under construction or in the planning stages would boost that amount to 350 million gallons annually, Blunt said.

Under his proposal, Missourians would burn 260 million gallons of ethanol in their cars and light trucks.

Missouri would become the fourth state to mandate an ethanol blend for all gasoline consumed in the state. It would create one standard, Blunt said, making it easier for suppliers to provide fuel to retailers at the lowest possible cost.

And the environmental benefits are an added bonus that goes along with a reduced dependence on petroleum, he said. "There are lots of reasons to do this."

The push for using ethanol isn't an attempt to impose a government-chosen winner in the marketplace for energy, Blunt said. The effort is in line with other regulations that address environmental issues from burning gasoline, he said.

"This is one more standard we are setting to protect the environment," he said.

Terry Hilgedick of Boone County, president of the corn producers association, said the time is right to push ethanol. The nation has a surplus of corn and a shortage of oil, he said. "The planets are aligned for ethanol," he said.

The effort to build an ethanol plant in Sikeston is proceeding as Bootheel AgriEnergy seeks investors, said Joe Schneider of Cape Girardeau, a board member and a farmer. Ethanol is currently 15 to 20 cents per gallon cheaper than gasoline, he said, which would ease pump prices if the blend is mandated.

The major automakers are pushing ethanol-ready vehicles in advertising, Schneider noted. "They are pushing this real hard. It is going to be huge."

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