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Speaker says Iowa Renewable Fuels Standard a ‘difficult push’ in 2021

DES MOINES — The chairman of a key committee says a “complicated proposal” to expand use of ethanol and biodiesel in Iowa hasn’t been “killed” for the year, but Senator Dan Dawson says it’s not “greased for passage” either.

“What the future looks like, I cannot tell,” Dawson said Thursday. “…There’s a lot more work to be done on this before we find any consensus.”

Dawson was among a handful of Senators who listened to feedback on the plan for about an hour Thursday. It began with Logan Shine, an advisor to Governor Kim Reynolds, suggesting critics were spreading “misinformation” about what Reynolds has called a Renewable Fuels Standard for Iowa.

“I know we’ve all heard this is a mandate,” Shine said. “At this point, we’re disagreeing on the semantics of whether it’s a mandate, a standard — it simply doesn’t matter because this is a pro-Iowa bill.”

A major pipeline company, truck stops, convenience stores and other retailers who sell fuel oppose the bill. Jason McDermott, president of McDermott Oil Company in Cascade – which operates five gas stations in eastern Iowa, said bill backers are “misleading” legislators about the significant expense of installing equipment that can pump higher blends of ethanol and biodiesel.

“For us as retailers, we’re not going to sell any more gas,” McDermott said. “We’re moving from one product to another. There’s absolutely no return on this investment and we’re the only ones being asked to invest in this.”

Tom Brooks, general manager of Western Dubuque Biodiesel in Farley, said it’s time for legislators “to take a stand” in favor of the renewable fuels industry.

“Frankly we’re overdue for biodiesel and ethanol blends to be the standard here rather than the alternative,” he said. “This industry is way too important to Iowa. This really shouldn’t be a difficult question.”

Ken Kleemeier, vice president of fuels for Kum & Go stores, said while retailers have major concerns, “the real victims” of the bill will be drivers who’ll wind up paying more for gas and diesel.

“The mandates and government overreach contained in this bill are a step too far,” he said.

Michael Walz of POET, which operates seven ethanol plants in Iowa, said the most important part of the bill ensures consumers have access to E15 by 2026.

“We believe every Iowan should have the freedom to fuel up with E15,” he said. “More than a decade ago, Minnesota led the way in making E10 America’s fuel standard. We believe Iowa should lead the way to shift to E15 with passage of this bill.”

Tom Cope, a lobbyist for Casey’s General Stores, told senators a proposed tweak in the bill designed to address retailer’s concerns is “worthless.”

“This new version continues to have restrictions and things in place that are really going to upend the fuel market in the state of Iowa,” Cope said.

Republican House Speaker Pat Grassley said there’s been hard work to try to find a satisfactory compromise, but passing an Iowa renewable fuel standard this year would be very hard.

“I can’t tell you the exact outcome of it,” Grassley told reporters, “but it’s a difficult push.”

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