JEFFERSON CITY - All Missouri drivers would have corn in their gas tank in a bill filed for the next legislation session that addresses a key Missouri agriculture issue.
The bill would require all gasoline sold after Jan. 1, 2007 be blended with at least 10 percent ethanol. Ethanol is a renewable fuel made from fermented agricultural products like corn.
The sponsor of the bill, Sen. John Cauthorn, R-Mexico said 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 is a General Manager of Mid-Missouri Energy, an ethanol plant in Malta Bend. He said the bill 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 U.S. is limited in its refining capacity. Blending 10 percent ethanol into unleaded gas is like getting a ten percent expansion in your refining capacity without spending any more capitol," 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 said 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. "It would reflect badly on my industry as well as cause my industry a lot of tension and a lot of extra hard work," he said.
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.
Cauthorn said 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 - 2 a gallon.
In addition, Gwaltney said the ten 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.
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 underway in Mexico for a fourth plant.
Ethanol production will be a key issue for Missouri agriculture this next legislation session according to Cauthorn, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. "It is time for renewable fuels to be in the forefront of our state," he said.