Kim Reynolds signs bill mandating most Iowa gas stations sell fuel with higher ethanol blends

Source: By Stephen Gruber-Miller and Ian Richardson, Des Moines Register • Posted: Tuesday, May 17, 2022

PRAIRIE CITY — Gov. Kim Reynolds has signed a law requiring most Iowa gas stations to offer gasoline with higher blends of ethanol as she seeks to boost the state’s biofuels industry and tout a cheaper fuel option with gas prices at record highs.

The law mandates gas stations and other fuel retailers to sell gas with 15% ethanol, known as E15, beginning in 2026.

There are exceptions for gas stations with older equipment and those that sell less than 300,000 gallons of gasoline per year. Those stations, which number in the hundreds, are eligible to apply for waivers from the law.

Still, the law is expected to greatly expand the availability of E15, which is currently available at a fraction of Iowa’s gas stations and truck stops. Most stations sell gasoline with no ethanol and gasoline with 10% ethanol blended into it.

“This historic bill makes Iowa the first state in the nation to adopt an E15 standard, setting the stage for the single largest expansion in biofuels in our state’s history,” Reynolds said at a signing ceremony held Tuesday on a farm outside Prairie City.

Under the law, any gas stations built or upgraded starting next year must be compatible with E85, or gasoline with 85% ethanol, and B20, which contains at least 20% biodiesel.

The law also includes a range of expanded tax credits for fuel with higher blends of ethanol and biodiesel, while phasing out tax credits for lower blends.

And it tweaks Iowa’s Renewable Fuel Infrastructure Program to provide more generous cost-sharing for smaller gas stations that want to use the state grant program to upgrade their equipment.

The measure, which passed the Iowa Legislature with broad bipartisan support, was one of Reynolds’ priorities and it’s likely to feature into her campaign message as she seeks reelection this year. Reynolds has been eager to tout Iowa’s renewable fuels industry as a means of lowering gas prices and helping achieve energy independence while criticizing President Joe Biden over rising gas prices and inflation.

“It honestly couldn’t have come at a better time,” she said of the new law Tuesday, pointing to gas prices.

Reynolds said the Biden administration “is encouraging Americans who can’t afford gas to buy an electric car,” but she believes “the true answer is biofuels.”

Biden visited a Poet ethanol plant in Menlo, Iowa last month to announce he will lift restrictions on the summer sale of E15 this year.

E15 is typically banned in several states from June 1 to Sept. 15 because it is believed to contribute to smog during warmer weather. Ethanol supporters say those claims are unfounded, adding that total emissions with E15 are less than E10 and gasoline with no renewable fuel.

The waiver Biden granted for the summertime sale of E15 is for this year only as part of an effort to bring down high gas prices. It is not intended to be permanent.

While Reynolds has praised the temporary waiver Biden issued, she and seven other Midwestern governors have sent a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency seeking a permanent waiver to sell E15 year-round.

Stephen Gruber-Miller covers the Iowa Statehouse and politics for the Register. He can be reached by email at sgrubermil@registermedia.com or by phone at 515-284-8169. Follow him on Twitter at @sgrubermiller.

Ian Richardson covers the Iowa Statehouse for the Des Moines Register. Reach him at irichardson@registermedia.com, at 515-284-8254, or on Twitter at @DMRIanR.

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