May 12, 2021 - News

How Iowa missed its lofty biofuels goal

Biofuels by percent of total Iowa gasoline sales
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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