Green Bay, Wis. – The candidates for Wisconsin governor are playing a game of one- upsmanship on pocketbook issues, and it was U.S. Rep. Mark Green‘s turn to up the ante after Gov. Jim Doyle announced he would suspend enforcement of the state’s minimum markup law for ethanol.
Green, however, did not take that opportunity to call for a comprehensive repeal of the minimum markup, even though he once voted for legislation to repeal the controversial law. Instead, he called on the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection to stop investigating a Monroe gas station owner for selling an ethanol fuel blend, E-85, at just over $2 a gallon.
Green said state investigators should have better things to do than stopping gas station owners form selling cheaper fuel to motorists. “With the price of oil climbing higher and higher, we should be encouraging more use of alternative fuel, not trying to force the sale of ethanol at a huge markup,” he said in a statement.
Mark my words
Green, who served in the Wisconsin Legislature before he was elected to Congress, has taken a cautious approach on minimum markup because recent studies indicate the law actually might be successful in holding down gas prices, according to campaign spokesman Luke Punzenberger.
“He feels it’s something we need to take into account when we make future decisions on the issue,” Punzenberger said.
The controversial law, enacted in the 1930s, establishes a minimum price at which gasoline and other motor fuels can be sold in Wisconsin. Advocates believe the law, which requires a 9.18 percent markeup from wholesalers to retailers, prevents large oil companies from undercutting independently owned service stations, and then racheting up the price after putting them out of business.
However, the law does not make a distinction between fuel derived from petroleum and fuel derived from ethanol, which in Doyle’s view artificially drives up the price of ethanol blended fuels such as E-85 and E-10.
In response, Doyle announced that ethanol-based fuel would not be subject to the minimum markup law enforcement, and he directed the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection to not take action against the sellers of ethanol-blended fuel.
The governor said his decision would add momentum to Wisconsin’s status as an emerging leader in ethanol and other renewable fuels.
Accounting for the federal ethanol tax credit, ethanol is selling wholesale at $1.37 per gallon, while the price of petroleum is about $2.60 (not including taxes), according to Doyle.
“More and more drivers are turning to ethanol-based fuels because they are cheaper, and that is a trend we want to continue,” Doyle said.
Applying even more heat to the GOP, the governor called on the Republican-controlled Joint Finance Committee to reconsider his plan to double the number of E-85 stations in Wisconsin, from 35 to 70. In June of this year, the committee rejected a Doyle proposal to provide $335,000 to increase the number of E-85 fueling stations.
The most recent game of one-upsmanship began when Green said Wisconsin should join other states and call a tax holiday for back-to-school expenses.