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Iowa Lawmakers Mandate Sale of E15 Fuel

April 27, 2022 by Dan McCue
In this July 20, 2013, file photo, an ethanol plant stands next to a cornfield near Nevada, Iowa. Iowa would be the first state in the nation to require that gas stations have pumps selling fuel with at least 15% ethanol under a bill that received final legislative approval Tuesday, April 26, 2022. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)

DES MOINES, Iowa — Iowa lawmakers passed legislation on Tuesday that could make the state the first in the nation to require gas stations to have pumps selling fuel blended with at least 15% ethanol.

The bill passed the Iowa Senate, 42-3, and the state House, 81-13.

When signed into law by Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds, who initially proposed the mandate, the measure will provide a significant boost to corn growers and the ethanol industry, which consumes roughly half the state’s corn crop.

“This is a historic win for Iowa families, for our agriculture and biofuels industry, and for Iowa’s entire economy,” Reynolds said in a tweet after the votes were cast.

Iowa is the nation’s leader in renewable fuels production with 42 ethanol refineries capable of producing 4.5 billion gallons annually — including 34 million gallons of annual cellulosic ethanol production capacity — and 11 biodiesel facilities with the capacity to produce 410 million gallons annually.

Most of the gas currently sold in Iowa and across the country is blended with 10% ethanol. E15 gas is currently available at about 2,300 gas stations, according to the Department of Energy.

Earlier versions of the Iowa Biofuels Access Bill raised concerns it would force small gas stations to close because of the cost of installing new tanks, pipes and pumps.

To address those concerns, the bill includes exemptions for existing gas stations selling less than 300,000 gallons of fuel a year with no plans to replace their storage tanks, and some stations with old storage tanks also can get waivers.

The state will also award up to $5 million a year in grants to help gas station owners upgrade equipment to handle E15 and B20, under a provision of the bill.

B20 is a blend of 20% biodiesel and 80% petroleum diesel. It can be used for heavy machinery and vehicles that run on diesel fuel.

“Today was a victory for Iowa consumers. Every person in Iowa deserves the choice of higher blends like E15 and B20,” said Monte Shaw, executive director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association.

“It’s also a victory for Iowa leadership as this legislation is already being looked at by other states as a model for how to promote access to lower-cost, cleaner-burning fuels,” Shaw continued. “We would not be here today if not for Gov. Kim Reynolds crafting this bill and pushing it over the finish line.

“Lots of legislators and other groups played major roles, but Gov. Reynolds started the process and saw it through to the end. Iowa’s biofuels supporters cannot say thank you enough. It’s exciting to see the leading corn, soybean and biofuels production state also be the leading biofuels policy state,” he said.

The vote came two weeks to the day after President Joe Biden visited an ethanol plant in the small town of Menlo, Iowa, and announced his administration will temporarily allow E15 gasoline to be sold this summer, a measure intended to help ease gas prices.

E15 is typically banned from June to September under the Clean Air Act because of air pollution concerns.

During the announcement, Biden said the move would “not solve all our problems, but it’s going to help some people. And I’m committed to do whatever I can to help — even if it’s an extra buck or two in their pockets as they fill up — to make a difference in people’s lives.”

Biden also said the U.S. will invest $100 million in biofuel infrastructure.

“This industry has a role to play in a sustainable energy future,” he said. “But I’m here today because homegrown biofuels have a role to play right now — right now — as we work to get prices under control and reduce the costs for families,” the president said.

Rep. Cindy Axne, D-Iowa, co-chair of the House Biofuels Caucus, has made ensuring the continued availability of E15 throughout the summer months a priority since July of last year, when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit struck down an Environmental Protection Agency rule that allowed for year-round sales of E15.

“I have been fighting tooth and nail to make sure biofuels are a part of the clean energy solution. Investing in biofuels not only helps Iowa’s farmers and rural communities, but also reduces our nation’s reliance on fossil fuels and brings down prices for Iowa families,” Axne said in a written statement.

“Ethanol is significantly cheaper at the pump, helps reduce our carbon emissions, and provides good-paying jobs right here in Iowa. I am immensely grateful for the president’s announcement to ensure E15 remains available year-round and for his continued work, along with [Agriculture] Secretary [Tom] Vilsack, in supporting Iowa farmers and rural communities,” she said.

Dan can be reached at dan@thewellnews.com and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue.

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