We sometimes refer to ethanol as the conservative's alternative fuel. It's not a whole lot better for the environment, but buying it helps Midwest corn farmers and reduces the amount of oil needed from the Saudis and Hugo Chávez. Trouble is, we learned after purchasing a flex-fuel vehicle (one that runs on either gasoline or ethanol) that there are probably more Al-Qaeda sleeper agents in the Valley than there are ethanol filling stations. Fortunately, Western States Petroleum stocks the stuff at its main plant near downtown Phoenix. The plant, with its tall, metal tanks, looks more like a set from The Road Warrior than a gas station, but the workers there are certainly our heroes. We'd be ridin' dirty — as in, burning up sooty, old gasoline — if not for them. Okay, it's not all about trying to be that kind of "green": Ethanol has been about 50 cents cheaper than gas lately.