Aug 26, 2021 - Business
Iowa ethanol advocates' angst over Biden's electric vehicle push
llustration of a gas pump facing off against an electric vehicle plug.
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

President Joe Biden's push for more Americans to use electric vehicles is creating angst amongst some Iowa ethanol advocates who argue the single-track goal could come at environmental and economic costs.

Why it matters: Electric vehicles create more competition at the gas pump, potentially hurting Iowa farmers' pockets who rely on corn and ethanol sales.

Driving the news: This month, Biden released an infrastructure plan that aggressively pushes electric vehicles as a way to cut carbon emissions and boost domestic car and battery manufacturing.

  • It sets a goal that 50% of all new cars sold in 2030 should be zero-emissions models.
  • Yes, but: The plan scarcely mentions biofuels, which has led to criticism from Iowa Republicans and Democrats, as well as ethanol advocates.

What they're saying: Ethanol can also help reduce carbon emissions, but not if the federal government undermines it by primarily funding the electric vehicle industry, said Monte Shaw of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association.

  • "Whenever D.C. tries to pick a one-size-fits-all solution ... it doesn't do as good a job of achieving their stated goal as if you allow some competition in the marketplace," Shaw said.

Change is happening whether Iowa likes it or not, but liquid fuels still aren't going anywhere, said Matt Russell of Iowa Interfaith Power & Light.

  • But an ethanol vs. electric debate is highly partisan, which leaves no winner at the end, Russell said.
  • Instead, they should coexist like Des Moines' fleet of electric cars and biodiesel dump trunks.
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