Soon-to-be former Iowa Department of Economic Development director Michael Blouin says Iowa should consider banding with other states to get a gasoline refinery to exclusively produce fuel that’s 85 percent ethanol. “If in fact you could reinvent the refinery industry, and that’s a big if…no one state could do it. No one group of private sector investors could afford to do it and you’re not going to do it without a whale of a fight from the traditional oil industry, the traditional refinery industry, so you work together,” Blouin says. There’s very little so-called E-85 — fuel that’s 85 percent ethanol — on the market today. Most ethanol-blended gas refined today has just 10 percent ethanol. “Many of the new cars have the ability to handle E-85 as well as regular gasoline, so you want to push that,” Blouin says.
Blouin submitted his resignation as state economic development chief, effective at the close of business today, in order to lay plans to run for governor. Blouin has started talking about ideas he would pursue if elected governor, and this is among them. Blouin says executives from private-sector companies have talked with Iowa officials about their desire to build a “cluster” of ethanol plants, with the goal of sending the product to a refinery that would make the E-85 blend exclusively. Building a new refinery just isn’t in the cards, according to Blouin, because of the price tag. He says Mexico drills a lot of oil, but sends it all to other countries to be refined into gasoline, then buys it back.
Blouin says it just makes sense to make more ethanol, rather than ship more crude oil into the country, especially with what’s happening on the world scene. But Blouin says the transition to common usage of E85 would probably take a generation.