Gov. Reynolds supports biofuel industry with Tuesday exec. order

A bus displays that it runs on biodiesel (via Creative Commons). 

Julia Poska | December 4, 2019

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signed an executive order declaring that future diesel engine vehicles purchased by the state must be able to use 20% biodiesel Tuesday at the Iowa Farm Bureau’s Annual Meeting.

The Iowa Department of Transportation fleet has already been using B20 biodiesel since 1994, a press release  said. While the order may not drastically change Iowa’s existing vehicle purchase tendencies, it is a gesture of support to an industry long dissatisfied with federal biofuel policies.

Iowa farmers and others have for months expressed displeasure with the Trump administration’s repeated Renewable Fuel Standard exemptions to oil refineries. The exemptions undercut what would otherwise be guaranteed demand for biofuel, and several failed ethanol plants have blamed the exemptions for their closure.

Environmentalists and other stakeholders argue about the environmental benefits of ethanol and biodiesel. The fuels reduce fossil fuel use and emissions but are produced through resource-intensive agriculture, which expends almost as much energy as the fuels store.

The fuels are pivotal to Iowa’s economy regardless. A Des Moines Register article about the executive order said Iowa is the nation’s biggest ethanol and biodiesel producer.

Poll: Majority of Iowans support Renewable Fuel Standard, Water Works lawsuit

The Des Moines River near downtown Des Moines. (Michael Leland/Flickr)
The Des Moines River near downtown Des Moines. (Michael Leland/Flickr)
Nick Fetty | March 2, 2016

A majority of Iowans support both the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and a lawsuit brought forth by the Des Moines Water Works, according to a recent Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll.

Seventy-one percent of Iowans surveyed support the RFS with support extending beyond party lines:  76 percent for democrats, 71 percent for independents, and 66 percent for republicans. Conversely, 21 percent of those surveyed do not support the RFS while eight percent identified as unsure. The RFS mandates that gasoline be blended with alternative fuels as a way to reduce carbon emissions.

The poll also found that 60 percent of those surveyed support the Des Moines Water Works’ lawsuit against three northern Iowa counties. The lawsuit alleges the counties – Buena Vista, Calhoun, and Sac – are not doing enough to prevent nitrates from contaminating waterways which has forced the water utility to operate additional equipment to supply clean water for its 500,000 customers. Support for the lawsuit is slightly down from a poll conducted a year ago which found that 63 percent sided with the water utility. Support on the issue varied between urban and rural respondents with 65 percent of city residents supporting the lawsuit compared to 59 percent who live in small towns and 49 percent who live in rural areas.

The poll was conducted Feb. 21-24 by Des Moines-based Selzer & Co. Telephone interviews were conducted with 804 Iowans 18 years of age and older. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Branstad questions EPA’s new Renewable Fuel Standard

Iowa governor Terry Branstad at a 2011 event in Des Moines. (Flickr)
Iowa governor Terry Branstad at a 2011 event in Des Moines. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

Nick Fetty | June 26, 2015

During a public hearing of EPA’s new Renewable Fuel Standard in Kansas City on Thursday, Iowa governor Terry Branstad questioned the new policy and the economic impact it will have on the Hawkeye State.

Nearly 300 people made statements during the public event which will be the only one EPA plans to host before a final decision is made in November. Brandstad and other supporters of the current fuel standard feel that it is necessary “to force oil companies to improve infrastructure at gas pumps to deliver ethanol fuel blends above the current 10 percent mix.”

“The EPA has a choice: protect the deep pockets of Big Oil and their monopolistic practices or nurture consumer choice, renewable energy growth and a healthy rural economy,” Branstad said.

The proposed plan, which was set by congress, calls for a reduction of 4 billion gallons this year and an additional 5 billion gallons in 2016. Branstad cited the financial impacts the proposal would have on Iowa’s economy pointing out that corn has gone from $6 per bushel in August 2013 to $3.45 per bushel currently. He said this has caused uncertainty in the market and has led to fewer investments in biofuel technologies.

Proponents of the new standard say that it would increase overall biofuel production and use over time. Officials from the oil industry also argue that retailers are not equipped to sell gasoline with ethanol levels greater than 10 percent and that customer demand has not warranted an investment in new infrastructure.

Other have questioned the feasibility of biofuels altogether, citing that production requires large amounts of water and other resources.

Iowa leads the nation biofuel production with 42 ethanol plants and 13 biodiesel plants.

Agricultural and environmental interests may be at odds

Photo by OakleyOriginals; Flickr
Photo by OakleyOriginals; Flickr

Earlier this week, Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley and several other members of the Senate Agriculture Committee met with U. S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy. The aim of the closed-door meeting was to clarify several intersections between environmental regulations and agricultural practices.

However, the meeting failed to resolve tensions between the two interests. Grassley released a statement noting his discontent with the EPA’s efforts, stating that “the meeting did little to alleviate [his] concerns.”

Issues discussed in the meeting included methane emission regulations, the amount of ethanol in the federal Renewable Fuel Standard, and U. S. Supreme Court decisions on the 1972 Clean Water Act. EPA officials maintain that agricultural exemptions are still in place, while Republican senators claim that the Agency is overreaching.

Republican committee members had called for the meeting in a May 23 letter.

Iowa House & Senate pass pro-ethanol resolution

Photo by InspiredInDesMoines; Flickr

Both the Iowa house and Senate have passed a resolution calling on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to reject its proposed rule which would reduce the amount of ethanol produced in the country.

The resolution passed both the house and senate without a dissenting vote. Continue reading

Iowa Congressmen meet with EPA leader on RFS mandate

Photo via Loebsack office

On Tuesday, Republican Gov. Terry Branstad led off his annual Condition of the State address with a call for a coordinated campaign to preserve the Renewable Fuel Standard, which mandates a certain level of renewable fuel production each year.

On Wednesday, Iowa Democratic U.S. Reps. Bruce Braley, Dave Loebsack, and several other members of Congress added their voices of opposition to the reduced mandate in a meeting with Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy.

To learn more, head over to the Des Moines Register.

Lawmakers Want EPA to Lower Ethanol Mandate

Photo by ChrisM70; Flickr

A bipartisan coalition of lawmakers from various states sent a four-paragraph letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, pleading for the EPA to lower the ethanol mandate. 

The law  requires refiners to buy alternative fuels made from corn, soybeans and other products to reduce the country’s dependence on foreign energy.

Opposition sited farming over fragile habitats and damage to vehicles as support.

To learn more, head over to the Des Moines Register.

Vilsack wants ethanol production to remain the same

Tom Vilsack touring an Iowa farm. Photo by USDAgov, Flickr.

Despite the drought and consequent decline in corn production, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack does not want any changes to be made to the Renewable Fuel Standard.

This indicates that Vilsack hopes ethanol production will remain the same during the drought.

Livestock producers in particular are frustrated with the current high feed prices, and are pleading for a reduction in ethanol production.

Read about the livestock producers’ situation here.

Read Vilsack’s comments here.