Biofuels plan sets up Iowa as a national leader during energy industry transformation

Source: By Grant Kimberley, Des Moines Register • Posted: Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Increasing our own state’s use of biofuels will position Iowa to continue to lead in promoting high-performance liquid renewable fuels with low carbon intensity.

We stand on the edge of a decade likely to see irrevocable change on many fronts. This includes where our energy supply comes from. An economic boom will surely accompany this energy shift, and Iowa is well-positioned to capture those benefits.

Gov. Kim Reynolds has shown foresight in putting Iowa on that economic path, most recently introducing legislation that would set a minimum biofuels standard in the state and encourage higher blends. For biodiesel, this would mean most Iowa diesel would contain at least 11% (B11) during warmer months beginning in April of 2022, and 20% (B20) during warmer months, starting in 2024, much as Minnesota does. Missouri and Illinois have proposed similar legislation. The time is right for this evolution in our energy values, and for Iowa to lead by example.

The Iowa Biodiesel Board and Iowa Soybean Association support the governor’s legislation for a biodiesel and ethanol standard. Using homegrown products that support Iowa’s economy and improve the quality of our fuel supply, replacing some foreign oil, makes economic sense. The standard would also replace or reposition existing state biofuels incentives, allowing Iowa to redirect taxpayer dollars to needed infrastructure. But it would also empower us to tap into a larger shift, as major corporations make net-zero commitments, and states coast to coast introduce legislation to drastically cut carbon.

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Rather than leaving it to the coasts, such as with California’s mammoth Low Carbon Fuel Standard, Iowa should not only participate in this transportation conversation, but help lead it. Increasing our own state’s use of biofuels will position Iowa to continue to lead in promoting high-performance liquid renewable fuels with low carbon intensity.

Smacked hard by the coronavirus pandemic, the derecho and drought, Iowa’s economy needs stimulation. The increased economic activity generated by biodiesel production and associated spending circulates throughout the entire Iowa economy, creating jobs and tax revenue. New research from ABF Economics shows biofuels account for about $4 billion of Iowa’s GDP and supports more than 37,000 jobs through the entire Iowa economy. By increasing soybean oil value, biodiesel supports 13% of the price per bushel of soybeans, which equated to $1.09 per bushel in 2019, while lowering the price of meal for livestock producers. When farmers are empowered to participate in the energy market, they diversify their operations and capture economic value. That benefits rural communities and secures our future.

After more than 100 years of petroleum dominance, a seismic shift in the nation’s energy supply is in motion, and it is unstoppable. Now is the time to fully realize the potential that biofuels provide to society by inviting them into our fuel supply once and for all. If you want to see Iowa continue to dominate the national renewable fuels industry at a time when it is poised for ultimate success, speak up. Let your state legislators know you support the governor’s biofuels standard legislation.

Grant Kimberley serves as executive director of the Iowa Biodiesel Board and director of market development for the Iowa Soybean Association. He farms corn and soybeans on his family’s farm in Maxwell.