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Expand chart
Data: Iowa Department of Revenue; Chart: Axios Visuals

Iowa’s longtime goal to replace 25% of petroleum used in gasoline with biofuels by 2020 fell far short, a new report from the Iowa Department of Revenue shows.

By the numbers: Last year hit 14.5%, a record yet still short by roughly 226.2 million gallons needed to reach the mark set by lawmakers in 2006.

  • Former Gov. Tom Vilsack, now serving as U.S. Agriculture Secretary, signed the goal-setting bill, which was promoted as the most aggressive renewable fuels standard in the nation and received nearly unanimous support in the House and Senate.
  • Retail tax credits and millions of dollars were dedicated to offset infrastructure costs for retailers to bring biodiesel blends to consumers.

Yes, but: The tax credits were phased out as was intended in the original bill. While they "helped move the needle, they didn’t move it as far as we’d like," Monte Shaw, director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) told Axios.

  • Only about 10% of Iowa gas stations currently offer E15, a high-octane ethanol blend that costs less than regular unleaded.

What’s next: Some biofuels advocates are pushing for new E15 standards that would require many Iowa gasoline retailers to sell it and provide new financial incentives for them to do so.

  • A bill is pending in the Iowa legislature, but its chances of advancing this late in the session are iffy, Shaw said.
  • Efforts to expand federal renewable fuel standards to make ethanol blends more widely available to consumers are ongoing, Grant Menke of the Iowa Corn Growers Association said.
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Go deeper

Linh Ta, author of Des Moines
Aug 6, 2021 - Axios Des Moines

Why you should expect longer lines at the Iowa State Fair this year

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Iowa State Fair organizers say there are worker shortages abound this year ranging from parking attendants to bartenders to corn dog cooks.

Why it matters: You'll likely have to wait a little longer in lines, especially if attendance reaches 2019's record-breaking levels.

Pinching pennies for the Iowa State Fair's future

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

The pandemic kicked the Iowa State Fair in the financial pants.

  • Last year's canceled event led to a more than $12 million loss, according to an unaudited financial report obtained by Axios.

Why it matters: The future of the fair — Iowa's largest annual event — hinges on what happens this year, ISF CEO Gary Slater told Axios.

Catch up quick: 2020 marked the first time the state fair was cancelled since 1945.

  • Public health concerns drove the decision, but finances were also a factor. A socially distanced fair would've lost about the same amount of money, fair officials determined prior to last year's announcement.

By the numbers: Expenses dropped 54%, from around $33M to $15M, last year as compared to 2019. But that couldn't offset the steep loss in revenue, $24M to $3M, according to fair officials.

🔽 The biggest hits:

  • Concessions: -$10.4M ($11.2M to $752K)
  • Admissions: -$8.2M ($8.4M to $192.9K)
  • Grandstand: -$7.5M ($7.5M to $0)

What else: Layoffs were avoided last year through penny pinching acts, including voluntary furloughs, but that could change if this year's event falls flat, Slater told Axios.

  • And it's not just coronavirus that's a threat. Attendance is greatly influenced by weather, Slater noted.

Of note: Under Iowa law, no tax money is used to pay for fair operations.

The bottom line: Typically about 90% of the fair's annual income comes in August. If this year's event doesn't go well, we could see changes in its future.

Clinton-linked lawyer indicted in investigation of FBI's Russia probe

Photo: Eric Baradat/AFP via Getty Images

A grand jury has returned an indictment against Michael Sussmann, a lawyer whose firm represented the 2016 Clinton campaign, for lying to the FBI about not representing "any client" when he presented them with allegations about a secret Trump Organization back-channel to a Russian bank.

Why it matters: It's the second criminal charge stemming from special counsel John Durham's review of possible misconduct by the intelligence community and prosecutors who investigated the 2016 Trump campaign's ties to Russia.