House Democrats say “big oil companies” are taking an underhanded approach to limiting the amount of the highest blend of ethanol — E-85 — that’s sold in Iowa. Representative Donovan Olson, a Democrat from Boone, says Democrats in the House are sponsoring a bill to deal with the problem. Olson says “big oil companies are obstructing Iowa’s road to energy independence” by forcing franchise owners to sign an agreement that forbids them from selling E-85. “We need more gas stations in Iowa to carry E-85, but big oil companies are making it nearly impossible,” Olson says.
The House Democrats would give gas stations a tax credit for installing or retrofitting pumps to dispense E-85. An Iowa-based spokesman for the oil industry was not immediately available for comment. The House Democrats also say Iowa should position itself so the nation’s first “bio-refinery” is built here. A “bio-refinery” does not use electricity powered by fossil fuels, but instead would convert “bio-mass” — switchgrass, for example — to provide the energy in the plant that’s producing some sort of fuel, like ethanol. “House Democrats believe that Iowa should be a world leader in renewable fuels to strengthen our economy, provide good jobs, help consumers, reduce the demand for foreign oil and meet our obligations to future generations,” Olson says.
The House Democrats also propose spending 10-million dollars a year to back research at the state universities and in the private sector that would improve the performance of renewable fuels, or seek new energy alternatives. Republicans in the House and Senate as well as Democrats in the Senate are pushing similar proposals they contend would boost the use of ethanol and renewable fuels. Governor Tom Vilsack has said he will not make any specific proposals on the subject so he can “broker” a deal in the legislature to boost use of ethanol.