JEFFERSON CITY - Despite charges that it would amount to a tax increase for motorists, Missouri's Senate approved Tuesday a proposal that would require most gasoline sold in the state to contain ethanol.
The bill which easily cleared the House earlier this year, passed the Senate overwhelmingly by 27-6 vote.
Sen. John Cauthorn, R-Mexico, brought the bill to the Senate floor.
"This is a bill that we're looking into the future for energy sources," he said," making sure we use alternative fuels, making sure that we understand that those dollars that are spent on energy produced in the state of Missouri stay in Missouri."
Opposition was led by the Senate's Judiciary Committee Chairman -- Sen. Matt Bartle, R-Jackson County -- who warned that because of the lower mileage ratings for ethanol, it would drive up costs for motorists.
Bartle also argued Missourians should continue to have the option of choosing between gasoline and ethanol-blended fuel.
"I just don't understand why we don't trust Missouri citizens to make their own choice," Bartle said.
Cauthorn told Bartle that he sounded like he was lobbying for big oil.
"I'm lobbying for that family in Lee Summit, that is going to be forced to buy fuel that is less efficient by about 20-25 percent," Bartle replied, " and now they're going to have to pay more money for a blended fuel that won't take their car as far as the non-blended fuel."
Bartle said the legislation would limit types of fuel available to consumers and without the bill new technologies that were economically unfeasable would become feasible once gas prices hit a tipping point.
"We will see a revolution happen in this country if the government would keep its hands off of the private market place," he said.
"If we tamper with the marketplace, all it's going to do is extend the life of oil and extend the influence of the Mid-East longer than it would otherwise be," Bartle later added.
Sen. Tim Green, D-St.Louis County, who voted against the bill said he didn't see the legislation lowering the demand for foreign oil, since the state would still require regular unleaded-gasoline to make the mixture.
"So, I see our dependency is going to stay at the same level," Green said.
He also said that since the efficiency of ethanol is less than gasoline, consumers would have to buy the same amount of crude oil if not more.
Sen. Chuck Graham, D- Columbia, said that he supported the bill, but offered an amendment which would have changed a "shall" to a "may" which would have taken away the mandate for terminals to sell ethanol, blended ethanol and regular gasoline.
The bill exempts premium gasoline and aircraft fuel from the requirement. Distributors who are unable to purchase ethanol-blended gasoline at the same or lower price as regular gasoline are exempt from any violation. The bill would go into effect January 1, 2008.