Pacific Ethanol buys rival Aventine in a reach to the east

Pacific Ethanol is buying Aventine Renewable Energy, more than doubling its annual production and creating the country's fifth-largest ethanol producer. Ethanol producers, which have long operated on thin margins, are under pressure this year because of plummeting gas prices. Prices must fall to remain competitive with other fuels, thinning margins even further. The deal announced Wednesday provides new scale for the Sacramento company. Pacific Ethanol, which dominates markets in the West, picks up Aventine's infrastructure and networks in the Midwest and East. Aventine is based in Illinois. "The merger offers a rare opportunity to combine the experience, market...