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Doyle exempts ethanol from minimum markup law

Gov. Jim Doyle has directed state regulators to let businesses sell ethanol-based fuel at lower prices than Wisconsin's "minimum markup" law would normally allow.

Doyle's order was prompted by a situation in Monroe, where Badger State Ethanol dropped the price on its E-85 fuel to a little more than two dollars per gallon over Memorial Day weekend.

At the time, the state notified the company that based on prices elsewhere, they should have been charging about a dollar more.

Badger State President and General Manager Gary Kramer took issue because he says ethanol-based fuel is a different product than traditional petroleum-based gas.

He says these are times when there are ever-diminishing supplies of fossil fuels and he says in his firm's view, what this is really all about is killing demand for a renewable fuel by artificially inflating its price.

Kramer says he's happy the governor acted quickly once he heard about the situation.

But an association that represents gas station owners says Doyle's decision could end up hurting consumers in the long run.

Wisconsin Petroleum Marketers Lobbyist Bob Bartlett says the minimum markup perseveres competition by keeping large companies from pricing smaller ones out of business.

Kramer says he has no problem applying the law to ethanol, but he doesn't think E-85 prices should be stacked up against more expensive petroleum based fuel.