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Renewable fuels backers rally at Iowa statehouse

Agriculture.com Staff 02/12/2016 @ 6:15am

The Iowa legislature was treated to a strong cocktail of ethanol, biodiesel and prairie populism Monday as more then 500 farmers and other backers of renewable fuels rallied to support legislation that would require 25% total renewable fuel usage in Iowa by 2015.

The rally, coordinated by the Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Renewable Fuels Association and individual ethanol plants, brought a dozen busloads of farmers and student members of FFA to the capital, Des Moines.

"We're here today to say it's time to think about what is best for Iowa, not what best for the petroleum industry," Iowa Corn Growers President Keith Sexton to a cheering crowd jammed into the statehouse rotunda.

Sexton pointed out that the legislation his group backs also has the support of the Iowa Lung Association because biodiesel and ethanol burn cleaner than petroleum-based fuels.

Burning more renewable fuels would also benefit Iowa's economy, said Monte Shaw of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association. Only about 12¢ of every dollar of gasoline sold in Iowa remains in the state, compared to about 67¢ from a gallon of E-85 (85% ethanol and 15% gasoline.).

Sam Cogdill, president of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, reminded the crowd that Iowa is the nation's leading producer of renewable fuels. "There's no reason we shouldn't be number one in consumption of renewable fuels," he said.

After a brief rally, the rural Iowans dispersed to lobby their own representatives and senators for support for legislation that would phase in a state renewable fuels standard, starting at 10% in 2008 and 2009.

Supporters say the legislation isn't a mandate like Minnesota's requirement that all gasoline sold in that state contain 10% ethanol, a mandate that has been increased to 20% to be phased in by 2013 if usage in the marketplace doesn't hit 20% on its own by the year 2010.

The Iowa legislation would not require that all Iowa gasoline be 25% ethanol. Instead, it would require that a fourth of the fuel sold in the state has higher levels of renewables than today. In 2005, three-fourths of the gasoline sold in the state is E-10, a 10% ethanol blend. (That's 1.2 billion gallons out of 1.6 billion gallons sold.) Another 670,000 gallons of E-85 was sold in the state in 2005.

Backers of the legislation say a 25% renewable fuels requirement would increase ethanol sales by 300 million gallons per year while mandating that all gasoline be 10% ethanol would increase ethanol usage by 63 million gallons. They say that the proposed law would give fuel sellers more flexibility in how they meet the 25% goal, which could be a mix of E-10, E-85, gasoline without any ethanol, and biodiesel.

Dave Nelson, board chair of Midwest Grain Processors, an ethanol plant near Lakota, Iowa, told Agriculture Online that he thinks the bill has a good chance because it has bipartisan support in the legislature.

Cogdill is equally confident.

"There will be a bill passed," he told Agriculture Online. "I feel it will be very close to what we want."

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