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Opponents of a Missouri law that requires filling stations to blend ethanol with gasoline are attempting to get that law repealed.
In 2006, Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt signed the Missouri Renewable Fuels Standard Act that requires filling stations in Missouri to blend their gasoline to a 10 percent mixture if the price of ethanol is cheaper than gasoline. Two other states, Minnesota and Hawaii, also have similar laws.
The measure overwhelmingly passed both houses but was opposed by a handful of legislators including Sen. Matt Bartle, R-Lee’s Summit and Sen. Luann Ridgeway, R-Smithville. Bartle wasted no time on Monday, the first day of bill pre-filing, by filing a bill that would repeal what he calls a mandate to blend ethanol. Bartle said in an email statement that this bill would be one of his top priorities this coming year.
“The state of Missouri has no business forcing people to buy high priced ethanol,” Bartle said in the statement. “This mandate encourages farmers to grow corn for fuel instead of corn for food, driving up the prices on the consumer and hurting Missouri families struggling to pay for groceries.
“This is the worst possible time to make things any more financially difficult for Missourians, all of whom are affected by food prices and are trying to make ends meet,” he went on to say.
Ray County Grain Growers General Manager Mike Nordwald said Bartle and others who call the law a mandate need to get their facts straight.
“It’s not a mandate,” Nordwald said. “If it’s not cheaper, the retailers don’t have to blend it at all. That’s the first thing they need to learn. Get the story straight.”
Sen. Bill Stouffer, R-Napton, is Vice-Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee and a supporter of the law. Stouffer has spent the last two years sponsoring a similar bill for soy bio-diesel. Stouffer said corn prices are half of what they were when grocery manufacturers started blaming ethanol production for soaring fuel and grocery prices, however the prices on grocery shelves have not reflected the shift.
“We’ve had the national grocery manufacturers come out with a $15 million ad campaign that said ethanol was the reason for food prices to go up,” Stouffer said. “Corn is now half of what it was when they said that was the reason. I certainly have not seen food prices respond.”
Bartle cited a study that was released last June by the Show-Me Institute that said high corn prices were one of the reasons their study opposes the law. The study also says that taxpayer funded subsidies to ethanol manufacturers is also hitting taxpayers in the pocket book. It also says that it leads to less fuel efficiency. Bartle in the statement said he agrees with those assessments.
“Government should not be in the business of picking ‘winners’ and ‘loser’s in the market,” he said in the statement. “This idea of squashing competition and propping up certain industries over others is hurting families who are struggling to get by.”
Nordwald said it is a political blame game.
“They’re either misinformed or on the take and not telling the truth,” Nordwald said.
Rep. Bob Nance, R-Excelsior Springs, has said he supports government help in promoting and implementing of renewable fuels and said it’s a good investment in Missouri farmers and national security. Nance has said that we need to reduce dependence on foreign oil.
“I believe ethanol has been an asset to our state, but many like to blame the farmers,” Nance said in an email response. “I would rather buy from our farmers than from foreign countries that use those funds against us.”
Stouffer said he would like to see all of the facts put on the table this session so the rumors about ethanol can be put to rest.
“I think there’s a lot of static in the market and we need to examine that and see what is right and what is not,” Stouffer said. “I think ethanol will stand very well for itself. I would like to see us look at the facts and not the rumors and static that’s in the market.”
The Show-Me Institute study also said that more than 70 percent of Missouri’s filling stations were already using a blend before the law was enacted.
Photo: Casey’s General Stores and a handful of others testified before a Missouri House Committee on Agriculture against an ethanol blend bill in 2006. One of those same senators is now trying to get the law repealed. (Photo by Dennis Sharkey/The Daily News)