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Legislators look to expand availability of higher biofuel blendsLegislators look to expand availability of higher biofuel blends

Iowa governor introduces bill to set E15 standard by 2025 and bipartisan Senate bill expands renewable fuel infrastructure.

Jacqui Fatka

February 8, 2021

6 Min Read
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HIGHER ETHANOL BLENDS ENCOURAGED: New bills introduced by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., encourage availability and accessibility of higher biofuel blends.Photo courtesy of Growth Energy

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds has introduced a bill to set a minimum standard of biofuels in the Iowa fuel supply. Meanwhile, legislators at the national level are also working to streamline regulatory requirements for higher ethanol blends.

In Iowa, HSB 185 proposed by Reynolds, creates more opportunities and markets within Iowa for corn-based ethanol including significant funding for biofuels infrastructure, as well as an E10 standard. The bill introduced in the Iowa state legislature would move the state to overall higher biofuel blends, including offering E15 statewide by 2025 and updating the E15 promotion tax credit to $0.03 per gallon year-round. It is estimated that over the first five years, the legislation would increase ethanol demand by over 117 million gallons.

POET, the nation’s largest ethanol producer, also applauded the legislation and POET Founder and CEO Jeff Broin says passing the legislation for an E15 standard could lay the foundation for the entire nation.

“E15 in Iowa would add nearly 30 million bushels of grain demand each year, grow thousands of jobs across the state and inject millions into Iowa’s economy,” Broin continues. “It would boost farm incomes across the Midwest, grow dependable domestic markets and be a critical step in securing America’s energy independence.” 

Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor says Iowa is often known as one of the country’s standard-bearers for ethanol policy, and this move to statewide E15 offerings solidifies their status as leaders in growing Iowans’ access to cleaner and better value fueling options at the pump.

“Because of the continued support from Iowa biofuel champions like Governor Reynolds, the E15 legislation introduced in the Iowa state legislature is a big step to offering higher biofuel blends to more and more Iowans and Americans,” she says.   

The Iowa Corn Growers Association also welcomed the introduction for encouraging consumer choice of biofuels. Carl Jardon, farmer from Randolph, Iowa, says, “Iowa is the nation’s leader in corn and ethanol production, and ICGA will continue to be proactive on this bill to see it through the finish line as it is a top priority for Iowa’s corn farmers.”

For biodiesel, this would mean most Iowa diesel would contain at least 11% (B11) during warmer months beginning in April of 2022, and B20 during warmer months in 2024 and later. The Iowa Soybean Association and Iowa Biodiesel Board strongly support the legislation and applauded the governor for her continued leadership.

Grant Kimberley, Iowa Biodiesel Board executive director, notes: “We fully embrace the governor’s call to set Iowa on the path towards using more biodiesel, and at higher blend levels. Setting a standard for widespread use of higher blends of biodiesel in Iowa would be positive for Iowa’s economy, environment and rural communities – and would improve the quality of the fuel supply overall. We see a seismic shift in the nation’s energy supply already in motion, and the approach to encourage additional production and use of biofuels to reduce carbon while improving the economy is tried and true. As the nation’s top biodiesel producer, Iowa should stay in the forefront of these forward-thinking changes.”

Jeff Jorgenson, president of the Iowa Soybean Association, says, “Iowa soybean farmers stand ready to work with her and the Iowa legislature on advancing renewable fuel policies. By working together, we can grow demand for Iowa soybeans and provide significant economic and environmental benefits to rural communities.”

Federal bill to increase incentives

U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, reintroduced The Renewable Fuel Infrastructure Investment and Market Expansion Act, bipartisan legislation to create a renewable fuel infrastructure grant program at USDA and streamline regulatory requirements to help fuel retailers sell higher blends of ethanol.

Specifically, the legislation would authorize $500 million over five years for USDA biofuel infrastructure grants. The bill would also require the Environmental Protection Agency to finalize their proposed rule that would remove certain barriers to expanded sales of E15, including E15 fuel dispenser labeling and compatibility with underground storage tanks, no later than 90 days after the legislation is enacted. 

The Renewable Fuel Infrastructure Investment and Market Expansion Act of 2021 would authorize the USDA Renewable Fuel Infrastructure Grant Program to help accelerate the deployment of renewable fuel infrastructure. Under the program, eligible entities may use the funds to:

  • Distribute to private or public entities for costs related to incentivizing deployment of renewable fuel infrastructure

  • Convert existing pump infrastructure to deliver ethanol blends greater than 10 percent and biodiesel blends greater than 20 percent

  • Install fuel pumps and related infrastructure dedicated to the distribution of higher ethanol blends, including E15 and E85, and higher biodiesel blends up to B100 at fueling locations

“This bipartisan effort will help advance the deployment of renewable fuel infrastructure and provide consumers across Iowa and the country with greater access to cleaner, more affordable choices at the pump,” says Ernst, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee and the Committee on the Environment and Public Works.

"Diversifying our fuel supply and introducing higher blends of biofuels in the market are great steps forward as we work to promote clean energy technologies and invest in transportation infrastructure,” adds Klobuchar. “This legislation will make cleaner fuels more accessible – ultimately benefiting both the economy and the environment.”

Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Geoff Cooper says, “If enacted, this legislation would greatly expand the availability of low-carbon renewable fuels like ethanol in the marketplace, resulting in cleaner air, lower fuel prices and a more vibrant rural economy.

“We know retailers want to offer smarter fuel options to their customers, but antiquated regulatory burdens often prevent them from moving ahead. This legislation would ensure that overly restrictive provisions are streamlined or removed, allowing small businesses across the nation to provide cleaner and more affordable options to American drivers,” Cooper adds.  

“As the nation embraces new technologies and fuels, biodiesel should remain front and center in the transportation conversation because it stands out as a low-carbon intensity fuel for diesel technology. This infrastructure proposal would ensure biodiesel producers can stay on the cutting-edge of clean fuel technology while supporting jobs, rural communities and economic development,” says Grant.

Biofuels part of climate solution 

A recently released study found that if the United States transitioned from E10 to E15, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions would be lowered by 17.62 million tons per year, the equivalent of removing approximately 3.85 million vehicles from the road.

“Iowa’s E15 goals will not only offer a more affordable fuel alternative to drivers but will also play a large part in our country’s efforts to decarbonize the transportation sector," Skor adds.

A recent study by Harvard validates what the American Coalition for Ethanol ACE says it has been saying for years; today’s corn ethanol is nearly 50% cleaner than gasoline.

“Senators Klobuchar and Ernst are demonstrating the kind of bipartisan leadership necessary to ensure biofuels play a leading role in helping the U.S. achieve net-zero emissions by mid-century,” notes ACE CEO Brian Jennings.  “While electric vehicles (EVs) are getting a lot of attention lately, experts conclude EVs alone will fail to reach President Biden’s goal of net-zero emissions in the U.S. by 2050, and that increased use of biofuels will be required to help address the emissions gap. This vital legislation would ensure infrastructure parity for biofuels and EVs and help ethanol continue to be part of the solution to climate change.”

Broin adds America’s farmers will play a “pivotal role in the climate solution.” He states, “Federal and state leaders looking to take action on climate and clean air should start with plant-based biofuels like bioethanol, which is 46% cleaner than gasoline from farm to freeway and displaces toxic chemicals in gasoline linked to cancer and other serious health problems.”

About the Author(s)

Jacqui Fatka

Policy editor, Farm Futures

Jacqui Fatka grew up on a diversified livestock and grain farm in southwest Iowa and graduated from Iowa State University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications, with a minor in agriculture education, in 2003. She’s been writing for agricultural audiences ever since. In college, she interned with Wallaces Farmer and cultivated her love of ag policy during an internship with the Iowa Pork Producers Association, working in Sen. Chuck Grassley’s Capitol Hill press office. In 2003, she started full time for Farm Progress companies’ state and regional publications as the e-content editor, and became Farm Futures’ policy editor in 2004. A few years later, she began covering grain and biofuels markets for the weekly newspaper Feedstuffs. As the current policy editor for Farm Progress, she covers the ongoing developments in ag policy, trade, regulations and court rulings. Fatka also serves as the interim executive secretary-treasurer for the North American Agricultural Journalists. She lives on a small acreage in central Ohio with her husband and three children.

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