The familiar colorful label on Iowa gasoline pumps promoting the state’s homegrown ethanol-blended gasoline could become a thing of the past if a bill at the statehouse becomes law.
The label on gas pumps that dispense the product carry the label that says “unleaded plus contains 10% ethanol” and the pumps also feature the blue, green and yellow state mandated label: “Clean Air for Iowa with Ethanol.”
Monte Shaw with the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association wants a brand new protocol for labeling at the pump. “We’ve done a lot of research all over the country and labels are inherently viewed negatively. If you label it must be bad,” he explains. Shaw says that when the E-10 label was first mandated, E-10 was the so-called boutique fuel, the exception not the rule.
Now pure petroleum is the exception so it should take its lumps with a label. But even more importantly Shaw says in the coming months, a new product E-15 will appear, and it will have a federally-mandated label warning consumers that it’s only approved for late model cars.
Shaw says,“What we’re faced with now is a very hostile for marketing piece right on the pump where people buy their gas.”
Shaw wants the pure gas product to pointed out for scrutiny as well. Shaw says there are characteristics of non-ethanol blended gasoline that aren’t favorable either, and consumers should know for instance, that they’re not renewable, that they make us more dependent on foreign oil.
The American Petroleum Institute isn’t lobbying against the bill, in spite of Shaw’s talk of a negative label ong its product. A spokesman says ethanol is so widespread they’ve gone neutral on labeling. But Kelly Paschke with the Petroleum Marketers of Iowa says the people who sell the gas do oppose the bill.
“We feel like that’s going to lead to confusion with the consumers, and potentially misfueling down the road,” Paschke says. She says some people still don’t want to buy ethanol blends and they should continue to get a clear indication of which fuel has ethanol in it. And, she says, of course the marketers don’t want any of their products vilified.
One lawmaker in the thick of the issue is House Agriculture Committee Chair Annette Sweeney, a Republican from Alden. She also worries the new E-15 label will scare off consumers. “Right now its Halloween colors, and its rather a standoffish kind of a look,” Sweeney says. Sweeney says she can see how a label pointing out that the pure petroleum product does not contain homegrown biofuels could boost ethanol sales.
But one of her key constituent groups, the Iowa corn growers disagree. Their lobbyist is Mindy Larsen-Poldberg. “We like the current sticker we think its very positive, and we’d like to keep the current ethanol sticker there,” she said. Larsen-Poldberg believes the colorful label “Clean Air for Iowa with Ethanol” has boosted sales.
Keeping the old and adding a new mandate for the pure petroleum isn’t an option, according to the marketers. They say there’s only so much room for labels at the pump. With this week’s deadline for getting bills out of committee, Representative Sweeney says she expects the bill to clear the Agriculture Committee, even though there’s no consensus yet on labeling among the interest groups.