JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri’s Senate approved a proposal Tuesday that would require most gasoline sold in the state to contain ethanol, despite charges that such a measure would amount to a tax increase for motorists.
The bill, which easily cleared the House earlier this year, passed the Senate overwhelmingly by a 26-7 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 that Missourians should continue to have the option to choose 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’s Summit that is going to be forced to buy fuel that is less efficient by about 20 to 25 percent,” Bartle said, “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. In the absence of the bill, he said, new technologies that are currently not economically feasible would become feasible once gas prices hit a tipping point. In other words, if gas prices continue to rise as fast as they are right now, more fuel-efficient technologies previously considered too expensive may become more economically viable.
“We will see a revolution happen in this country, if the government would keep its hands off of the private marketplace,” 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 Mideast longer than it would otherwise be.”
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 he supported the bill but offered an amendment that would have removed the mandate requiring terminals to sell all three gasoline varieties, including ethanol, blended ethanol and regular gasoline. He voted for the bill, even though his amendment did not pass.
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 Jan. 1, 2008.