Missouri gas stations will not be selling E-15 anytime soon.
A joint House-Senate committee voted Wednesday to reject a rule change sought by the State Agriculture Department that would have allowed sales of fuel containing 15 percent ethanol. Republican Senator Eric Schmitt of St. Louis County chairs the committee and said its vote had nothing to do with its opinion on increasing ethanol use in Missouri.
Ethanol is an up and down industry, and right now it’s down. Ethanol plants in at least 13 states have stopped running over recent months because of higher corn prices and lower demand for the biofuel. The industry is trying to change the equation by putting more of the ethanol in gasoline. But as Grant Gerlock of Harvest Public Media reports, ethanol critics are pushing back.
Seventeen ethanol plants nationwide have been idled since last June because of a scarcity of affordable corn due to the drought and a weak market for the corn-based fuel. On Friday, a plant in Macon, Mo., took the hit — and brought the number to 18.
The northeast Missouri plant is temporarily halting operations as corn prices top $7 a bushel. It's one of 27 plants that Poet Biorefining owns nationwide, and was the first ethanol plant opened in Missouri in 2000. It has been producing 46 million gallons of ethanol per year since 2003.
About a decade ago, concerns about energy independence, greenhouse gas emissions and the need to boost rural economies led Congress to launch policies in support of biofuels – corn ethanol, most notably. But the idea was that eventually more U.S.-produced fuel would be cellulosic – derived from corn residue, wheat straw or other biomass.
There’s a new kind of gas on the market, with more ethanol in it than the gas we usually put in our cars. That’s beneficial for corn farmers who grow the corn that ethanol is made from and want more of it in your gas. But while the ethanol industry fought for years to bring this fuel to the market, now that they’ve won… good luck finding it. Even in Corn Country, pickings are slim.