Iowa Legislature Working Bill to Ease State Ethanol Expansion Requirements

Photo by Dawn McDonald on Unsplash

A bill is advancing in the Iowa Senate, with bipartisan support, to help gas stations transition to higher-ethanol gasoline blends after the Legislature’s recent requirement that stations offer ethanol blends at their pumps.

The bill would delay the requirement for gas stations to install higher-ethanol pumps until 2030 and change the ethanol level sought from E85 to E40. It would delay the requirement for E15 to 2025.

In a subcommittee meeting last week, Iowa Sen. Dan Zumbach, R-Ryan — who represents Delaware County and Cascade in Dubuque County — said he was pleased with the support of both some Democrats and many of the impacted stakeholders of the ethanol requirement.

“This is giving a lot more latitude to our retailers, getting them into compliance and giving them time to do it,” he said. “This bill will move more ethanol quicker. Ultimately that is good for our state.”

In 2022 the Legislature passed a bill to require most stations to offer E15, gasoline blended with 10.5% to 15% ethanol, at half of pumps or more and require that most stations are E85-capable by 2030. The bill exempted older gas stations from the shift being mandatory, but also offered $50,000 to help pay for new infrastructure to accommodate the blend, which — being higher octane than petroleum-only gasoline — requires different storage.

Iowa produces more grain crops for ethanol than any other state. The ethanol industry is currently tied to liquid fuel for combustible engines. Combustible engines are expected to be phased out in coming decades, due to the shift to electric vehicles to reduce carbon pollution which drives climate change.

But, Iowa Corn Growers Association lobbyist Mindy Poldberg, during a subcommittee meeting for the bill last week, said the transition has not yet harmed ethanol business because of electric vehicles’ continued higher price points.

“The E85 infrastructure is somewhat expensive,” she said. “That’s why we think it is appropriate to move to E40 now... We believe that electric vehicles are not going to take over soon.”

Iowa Sen. Bill Dotzler, D-Des Moines, served on the subcommittee and agreed with that assessment and the bill.

“It’s clear that ethanol drives the prices of fuel down,” he said. “When you think about a consumer, they go for the cheapest button. I’m a big supporter of electric vehicles, but there are big problems with the batteries and where they’re available and their impact on the environment. So for a long time, I think we’re going to have dual (systems).”

Iowa Rep. Norlin Mommsen, R-DeWitt, has been following the bill as the head of the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee. He told the TH in an interview at the Capitol that he was following and was supportive of the bill’s intent.

“This will help our smaller gas stations get to where we want to be in Iowa with ethanol,” he said. “It will help set them up for the future, which we know will include ethanol.”