p7-Ethanol

Iowa delegation moves on ethanol

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A tractor sits in a field outside Iowa City on April 15. The U.S. House and Senate have introduced bills that would strip away “burdensome restrictions” on ethanol. (The Daily Iowan/John Theulen)

A tractor sits in a field outside Iowa City on April 15. The U.S. House and Senate have introduced bills that would strip away “burdensome restrictions” on ethanol. (The Daily Iowan/John Theulen)

Much of Iowa’s congressional delegation says the Environmental Protection Agency is improperly placing binds on renewable-fuel companies and consumers. Members in the U.S. House and Senate have introduced acts that would strip “burdensome restrictions” placed on the ethanol sector.

Reps. Rod Blum and David Young, both R-Iowa, introduced the Fuel Choice and Deregulation Act of 2015 in the House on Wednesday. The act would also align the same tax rate between liquid natural gas and diesel fuels and further push companies to create new technological advancements.

“It is time for the EPA to stop denying American consumers access to new fuels in the marketplace,” Blum said in a prepared statement.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., first introduced a version in the Senate.

Strong support for the bill actually began with Paul, who, while campaigning for president, had long discussions with ethanol producers in his home state and Iowa, according to a source familiar with the conversations who wished to remain to anonymous because of her or his position in the renewable-fuels industry.

Ethanol is cleaner to burn than gasoline but in some vehicles provides lower miles per gallon.

Iowa has 42 corn ethanol plants with a capacity to churn out nearly 3.8 billion gallons of ethanol each year, leading all states in production with nearly 30 percent of the national supply, according to the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association.

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In a statement Wednesday, Grassley praised Blum and said the effort is an example of understanding the appeal behind cleaner, domestic renewable fuels.

Currently, the EPA allows gas stations and other suppliers to sell E10 — a blend of gasoline with 10 percent alcohol — year-round in Iowa. Larger quantities of ethanol, specifically E15 — are limited because of vapor pressure and the state’s climate.

The bill calls for the EPA to issue waivers year-round so the E15 blend could be sold throughout the year.

That’s a key step for 80 to 90 retailers in Iowa that sell E15 and can only do so between April and September, said Amanda De Jong of the Iowa Corn Growers Association, an agribusiness lobbying group that wields strong political influence.

Small “mom and pop” gas stations and ethanol suppliers see the financial pinch when they have to switch their fuel pumps regularly, De Jong said. Consumers can also become confused when they pull up to a pump and see that an E15 option has switched to E10, she said.

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Greg Olsen, who serves as the general manager for the POET Biorefining in Corning, Iowa, said the EPA’s regulations have come at such an expense for the 44-person operation that the company had to hire one person just to thumb through the company’s files to make sure it is staying in compliance with the EPA and its many regulations.

The company consumes approximately 23 million bushels of locally grown corn and makes almost 65 million gallons of ethanol annually.

“More regulations are coming all the time,” Olsen said. “We’re kind of shooting our selves in the foot as a country saying we want cleaner air but aren’t allowing it into the environment.”