Iowa Legislature Votes for Blender Pumps

Iowa will see another year of funding for retailers to add blender pumps. The Iowa Legislature voted unanimously to allocate funding for the biodiesel and ethanol blender pump program known as the Renewable Fuels Infrastructure Program (RFIP). The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) recently reported that interest in blender pumps is at an all time high and the last round of funding, totaling $3.2 million funded 68 projects. This marks the last year of funding for the program that kicks off the FY2017 fiscal year.

Biodiesel and ethanol pump in Des Moines, Iowa on April 24, 2016. Photo Credit: Joanna Schroeder

Biodiesel and ethanol pump in Des Moines, Iowa on April 24, 2016. Photo Credit: Joanna Schroeder

“While we were hopeful for a long-term funding solution for the state’s renewable fuels infrastructure program, we’re very pleased today that the Iowa legislature was able to keep this vital initiative going for another year,” said IRFA Policy Director Grant Menke. “The USDA’s Biofuels Infrastructure Partnership re-energized many Iowa retailers, leading to record participation in the blender pump program over the past year. This one-year funding extension allows us to build upon this momentum and ensure Iowans have greater access to cleaner-burning, lower-cost renewable fuels.”

The Iowa Renewable Fuels Infrastructure Program (RFIP) offers cost-share grants to Iowa retailers wishing to upgrade fueling infrastructure to offer E15, E85 and/or biodiesel blends. Reimbursement can be up to 70 percent of the installation costs, up to a maximum of $50,000 per project, with a five-year commitment to sell E15, E85 or biodiesel blends.

“This legislation does permanently end the current source of RFIP funding, so finding a long-term funding solution will be a high priority for the biofuels and renewable retailers community next legislative session. Bottom line, this program provides immense benefits to Iowans in the form of cleaner air, competition at the pump, lower fuel prices, and a stronger Iowa economy,” added Menke.

B11 Iowa Average Biodiesel Blend

More Iowa consumers are choosing biodiesel at the pump according to a new report from the Iowa Department of Revenue. The report finds that the average biodiesel blend purchased in the state reached 11 percent, an increase from 9.4 percent average blend in 2014. The data showed that Iowans also purchased a record amount of E85 and mid-level ethanol blends in 2015, 13.1 million gallons, a 8.3 percent increase over 2014. In addition, motorists also purchased 8.7 million gallons of mid-level ethanol blends, ranging from E15 to E69, a 121 percent increase over 2014.

Photo Credit: Joanna Schroeder

Photo Credit: Joanna Schroeder

“Despite the lack of Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) targets and the federal biodiesel blenders’ tax credit last year, biodiesel use took a step forward in 2015 increasing the average biodiesel blend purchased in the state to B11,” said Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) Executive Director Monte Shaw. “This shows the importance and effectiveness of forward-thinking state-level policies that encourage the use of locally-produced, cleaner-burning biodiesel.”

While fuel purchases mid-level and higher blends of ethanol continue to grow, E10 sales have remained steady. “While still making up a small portion of overall gasoline sales, we saw aggressive growth in E15 and mid-level ethanol blend sales in 2015,” added Shaw. “And despite historically low gasoline prices for a portion of the year, Iowans purchased a record amount of E85. There’s certainly more room to grow, but meaningful growth in higher ethanol blend sales is a win for the state’s economy and environment, as well as Iowans’ pocketbooks.”

The data comes from the 2015 Retailers Fuel Gallons Annual Report. Iowa Department of Revenue reported that it received filings representing 93.2 percent of fuel locations in the state.

IRFA Testifies at Senate Ag Subcommittee Hearing

irfa-shaw-hearingIowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) Executive Director Monte Shaw recently testified before the Senate Agriculture Subcommittee on Rural Development and Energy. The hearing focused on USDA Rural Development Programs and their economic impact across the country. Shaw said during his testimony that properly supporting renewable fuels programs are vital to the well-being of rural America.

“I think it can be fairly stated that no other effort to improve rural economies made the impact that renewable fuels did,” Shaw testified. “Then, in late 2013, the Obama Administration proposed Renewable Fuel Standard levels far below statutory levels. The economic fallout was predictable and painful. The last two years have seen a dramatic downturn in the health of rural America. Corn prices plummeted, land values fell, farm income plunged, and agribusinesses laid off workers by the thousands.”

Shaw highlighted several Energy Title programs under the Farm Bill, including the Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels, the Renewable Energy for America Program and others, that have provided strong returns on investment. “However, the effectiveness of these programs is reduced by a lack of consistent and timely funding.”

Shaw also asked the Senate leaders to support other programs outside the Farm Bill that can boost rural economies. “The Renewable Fuel Standard, the USDA’s Biofuels Infrastructure Partnership, and equalizing vapor pressure treatment for E10 and E15 are all additional programs you can support that are vital to the well-being of rural America.”

Iowa Retailer Interest in Biofuels Grows

Photo Credit: Joanna Schroeder

Photo Credit: Joanna Schroeder

A recent meeting of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Infrastructure Board concluded by approving 68 infrastructure projects for a total of $3.2 million in state grants. The funds are to assist retailers in adding the infrastructure needed to offer higher blends of ethanol including E15 and biodiesel.

“Thanks to sound, forward-thinking state policy, many Iowans will soon have greater access to cleaner-burning, homegrown fuels, like E15, E85 and biodiesel,” said Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) Managing Director Lucy Norton. “The state’s biofuels infrastructure program has been very popular and wildly successful in expanding consumer access to higher blends of ethanol and biodiesel, as shown by the most recent round of grants.”

Adding that interest by retailers continues to grow each year, Norton said project funding is set to expire at the end of Iowa’s fiscal year on June 30, 2016.

“With more interest in this program from Iowa retailers than ever before, it’s imperative that this program receive continued funding to capitalize on the momentum for expanding higher blend levels of renewable fuels and provide motorists with more lower-cost, locally-produced choices at the pump,” Norton concluded.

Iowa Biofuel Impact Takes Small Step Back

A new study conducted by John Urbanchuk of ABF Economics and commissioned by the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) found that while the renewable fuels industry continues to be a strong driver of Iowa’s economy, its impacts have taken a small step back from last year. The report cited reductions to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) as the cause.

Iowa RFA logo-new“Iowa is the leading producer of ethanol in the United States,” said Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad during a press conference at the Capitol to release the study results. “We have been disappointed by the EPA’s unwillingness to restore a robust Renewable Fuel Standard. This study shows how important renewable fuels are for the future of our Iowa economy.”

The study found that in 2015 the renewable fuels industry in Iowa:

  • Supported nearly 43,000 jobs throughout the entire Iowa economy;
  • Generated almost $2.3 billion in household income for Iowans; and,
  • Accounted for about $4.6 billion, or 3.5 percent, of Iowa GDP.

“While Iowa’s ethanol and biodiesel industries continue to power the state’s economy, it’s disappointing that those impacts took a small step backwards last year,” added IRFA Executive Director Monte Shaw. “What may be as equally frustrating is the missed opportunity to really grow Iowa’s economy. When the EPA reduced the statutory RFS levels, it reduced our ability to grow ethanol and biodiesel production, to grow forward-looking investments into new technologies, to grow farm income and to grow Iowa jobs.”

Ethanol Plays Key Role in Iowa Campaigning

caucusSen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) won the Republican ticket in Iowa last night with Donald Trump coming in second despite Cruz’s ambiguity on ethanol and the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). However, compared to the campaigning four years ago, ethanol has gained a significant amount of positive ground according to a press conference held by Growth Energy. The Iowa Caucus kicks off the beginning of the nomination process for the next U.S. president.

Tom Buis, co-chair of Growth Energy, noted on the call that the oil industry is calling the results proof that Iowans don’t care about ethanol. However, he says the facts are, “Over 80 percent of the votes yesterday in Iowa were cast for candidates that are in favor for the RFS.” The results find that there were more pro-RFS votes made in Iowa this year than in 2012.

For example, in 2012 in Iowa, anti-RFS candidate votes were cast for Ron Paul: 21.5 percent; Rick Perry: 10.4 percent; and Michele Bachmann: 5 percent for a total of 36.9 percent. Whereas in 2016, anti-RFS votes were for Ted Cruz: 27.7 percent and Rand Paul: 4.5 percent for a total of 32.2 percent.

According to Paul Tewes, political strategist, who has been a keen observer of the campaigning process, said he has never seen ethanol more talked about, perform better as a whole, or have a politician like Ted Cruz be more contorted about how to talk about it than this one. “This was a race here where ethanol was put on the map, where candidates had to talk about it and most of the candidates moved either completely for it, or the few that didn’t, moved towards it.”

He also noted that if Cruz is the Republican nominee, then he believes Democrats will take the state in November.

Monte Shaw, executive director for the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) added that the effort to support the RFS in Iowa has always been more than about one candidate. “It was about trying to get candidates to understand the reality of the support oil gets from the government and how the RFS cracks through that monopoly.”

To learn more about Iowa voter support for ethanol and the RFS, listen to the full press conference including the Q&A here: Iowa Caucus Results Press Conference

Reynolds, Naig Highlight Fueling Our Future 100

During the 10th Annual Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit, Iowa Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds, along with Mike Naig, deputy secretary of agriculture, highlighted the new “Fueling Our Future 100” program. In round one, the program has allocated $2.49 million dollars to help Iowa gas retailers install 107 blender pumps and 8 underground storage tanks to store high blends of ethanol. Naig said applications for the 2nd round of funding are due February 1, 2016.

Kim Reynolds and Mike NaigReynolds noted that each blender pump installed benefits Iowa’s agricultural economy and supports good jobs for Iowa families. Adding blender pumps also gives consumers more choices at the pump, she added.

“Thanks to the support of our federal partners at the USDA, the ‘Fueling our Future 100’ program is going to ensure that consumers in our state have greater access to biofuels.  We’re appreciative of companies like Five Star Coop, New Century Farm Services, Kum & Go, STAR Energy and Three Rivers Farm Services Company for their efforts in continuing to put Iowa on the forefront of an even greater renewable future.”

The  Fueling Our Future 100 received a $5 million competitive grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Biofuel Infrastructure Partnership (BIP) program.  All funds must be matched by non-federal funds, including up to $2.5 million from the Iowa Renewable Fuels Infrastructure program. The fueling sites applying for assistance will also be required to provide a minimum of $2.5 million.

Listen to Iowa Lt. Governor Kim Reynold’s remarks here: IA Lt Gov Kim Reynolds' Remarks

Listen to Iowa Ag Deputy Secretary Mike Naig’s remarks here: Mike Naig's Remarks

10th Annual Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit Photo Album

Iowa Delegation Urges EPA to Get RFS on Track

The entire Iowa congressional delegation this week urged the EPA to propose 2017 ethanol and 2018 biodiesel Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) Renewable Volume Obligations (RVOs) consistent with enacted law.

A letter signed by Iowa Congressmen David Young, Rod Blum, Steve King, and Dave Loebsack, and Iowa Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, was sent to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy encouraging her to commit to getting the RFS back on track.

“Our agricultural base in Iowa, serving as feedstock for ethanol and biodiesel production, has near record supplies of excess corn,” the members of Congress wrote. “We believe the statutory levels are more than achievable in the coming year.”

irfa-iowa-delegationReps. Loebsack, Young and King all appeared Tuesday at the Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit to discuss the letter and the importance of the RFS.

“We’ll see if we get any results,” from the letter, said Rep. King. “But we’ve been saying consistently and persistently that the RFS is in statute – follow it.”

“It’s not totally out of the question for us to work together,” said Loebsack, the only Democrat of the three. “And on this issue it’s a complete no brainer … it’s about our economy, it’s about our farmers, it’s about national security, it’s about a lot of things.”

“We have farm income down about 35% and we have the EPA which seems to be on a warpath at times,” said Young. “We’re just asking the EPA to obey the law.”

Listen to the press conference here: Iowa congressmen at Iowa RFA

10th Annual Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit Photo Album

Four GOP Candidates Address #Ethanol

Four Republican presidential candidates addressed the 10th annual Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit on Tuesday, putting a major national spotlight on the importance of ethanol to the nation.

irfa-santorumFirst up was former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, the only candidate who had been there before, making his third appearance to the group. He stressed his long support for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). “I am not a newbie to the RFS world,” he said. “I’m the only person in this race who actually voted for the RFS when I was in the United States Senate in 2005.”

Alluding to Senator Ted Cruz, who was not invited to speak at the summit but who has strong support in Iowa, Santorum encouraged ethanol supporters to “Stand up for someone who supports the RFS.”

Listen to Santorum’s remarks here: Rick Santorum at Iowa RFA

irfa-trumpFront runner Donald Trump was next up, reading from prepared remarks and also stressing his support for the RFS. “The RFS is an important tool in the mission to achieve energy independence for the United States,” Trump said. “I will do all that is in my power as president to achieve that goal.”

Trump also noted remarks that Iowa Governor Terry Branstad made in a press conference at the event that “it would be a big mistake for Iowa to support him.”

Listen to Trump’s remarks here: Donald Trump at Iowa RFA

irfa-huckabeeFollowing Trump was former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who stressed the importance of farmers in the goal of energy independence, saying people don’t appreciate “that our agricultural system not only provides the food and fiber for our tables, but now is doing something truly remarkable – helping provide fuel for our energy needs.”

Huckabee said the RFS created investment in renewable fuels and “something magic happened – the program actually worked!”

Listen to Huckabee’s remarks here: Mike Huckabee at Iowa RFA

irfa-fiorinaLast to take the stage was businesswoman Carly Fiorina who talked about the EPA’s final rule for biofuels volume obligations under the RFS made last year that is lower than Congress intended.

“What’s going on with renewable rule standards, what’s going on with EPA, are an example of what’s wrong with our government,” she said. “They are one of the reasons why I’m running for the presidency of the United States.”

Listen to Fiorina’s remarks here: Carly Fiorina at Iowa RFA

10th Annual Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit Photo Album

IRFA’s Shaw: We Will Not Retreat

“Today, Iowa’s renewable fuels industry – the entire renewable fuels industry quite frankly – is at a fork in the road. We must decide whether to retreat, or whether to fight for victory. I know we will not retreat. It is simply not in the farmers DNA. So we fight,” said Monte Shaw, executive director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) during the opening session of the 10th Annual Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit referring to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). This legislation, said Shaw, is the key to long-term success of renewable fuels.

IRFA Executive Director Monte Shaw“I know the renewable fuels industry will not waiver or retreat or surrender,” said Shaw. “It will continue to battle for market access and to tear down the bogus ‘blend wall.’ I know this because the renewable fuels industry has fought the odds for 35 years – and won.”

He continued, “Keeping the RFS intact is key to near term biodiesel growth, the ability for cellulosic ethanol to have a chance to develop, and to pulling corn ethanol above 15 billion gallons per year. When the RFS finally breaches the artificial blend wall and major markets add the distribution infrastructure necessary for E15, ethanol use won’t increase by just that prescribed amount. Once the hole is in the dam, the octane value of corn ethanol will burst through – pulled by the RFS just as certainly as cellulosic ethanol and biodiesel.”

He also noted there is not a consensus to repeal nor modify the RFS in D.C. Do buy in to the narrative and choose the path of retreat because Big Oil is trying to win, he added.

To view Shaw’s selected prepared remarks, click here.