Governor Kim Reynolds is urging the EPA to expand next year’s production mandate for “advanced” ethanol that’s made from plant material rather than just the starch from corn kernels. Reynolds is in Washington, D.C. today to testify at a public hearing on the Renewable Fuels Standard.
“Certainly as the governor of a Midwest state, I’ve been a long, passionate supporter of biofuels and we certainly understand how crucial a robust RFS is to our farmers,” Reynolds said during a conference call with Iowa reporters, “and really to our entire Iowa economy.”
About 43,000 Iowans work in jobs connected to the renewable fuels industry, according to the governor. Reynolds said the industry has consistently responded to higher production goals and the federal mandate for “cellulosic” ethanol needs to “look forward.”
“I’m proud to say Iowa is home to two large-scale commercial cellulosic facilities that utilize corn stover,” Reynolds said. “We’re also home to the largest cellulosic producer that uses corn kernel fiber, so the near-term future for cellulosic is really, I think, much brighter than the proposed obligations.”
The federal mandate for production of conventional ethanol, made from corn starch, would increase next year under the EPA’s proposal. But Reynolds is urging the EPA to adjust its recommendation for mandatory production of soybean-based biodiesel, which has been slightly reduced by the Trump Administration.
“Our innovative farmers and techology have certainly demonstrated that we not only have the capability of feeding, but fueling the world,” Reynolds said.
Earlier this morning, Reynolds and the governor of Nebraska spoke by phone with reporters on a conference call organized by Fuels America, a coalition representing the biofuels industry.
Below are the remarks Reynolds made at the hearing, as prepared for delivery.
“Good morning. Thank you for the opportunity to speak today on behalf of all Iowans regarding the importance of a strong Renewable Fuel Standard or RFS.
As governor of a Midwestern state, I’ve long been a passionate supporter of biofuels. I understand how crucial a robust RFS is to farmers and the entire Iowa economy.
Iowa’s productive fields and innovative farmers continue to utilize technology to increase yields while decreasing inputs and the impact on our natural resources.
Our farmers have demonstrated that you can, in fact, feed and fuel the world.
Iowa has long been a national agriculture leader: we are number one in corn and soy production, number one in ethanol and biodiesel production and number one in cellulosic ethanol production.
The RFS plays a major role in sustaining our ability to continue as an agricultural leader by giving farmers another market for their commodities.
Over 43,000 jobs are supported by the renewable fuels industry in Iowa, generating $2.3 billion of income for Iowans.
The impact of the biofuels industry can be felt throughout the state: 3.5 percent ($4.6 billion) of Iowa’s GDP was tied directly to the renewable fuels industry in 2015.
As the current ag economy experiences a downturn, sustainable and predictable renewable fuels markets are incredibly impactful to the bottom line of farmers and rural Iowa.
Furthermore, Iowans appreciate having options at the pump, and they continue to choose renewable fuels as a lower cost option.
According to the Iowa Department of Revenue, Iowans saved over $315 million in 2015 using ethanol blended fuels.
Our retailers have responded to the demand by investing in infrastructure to provide options for customers.
In 2016, USDA Biofuels Infrastructure Partnership (BIP) Program success—made possible in part by match funds from our local Renewable Fuels Infrastructure Program—led to 217 new blender pumps and 18 underground storage tanks at 70 sites owned by 17 different companies.
Iowa farmers and Iowa business continue to invest in this critical industry, thus the need to ensure its viability.
The EPA’s indecision in the past has led to market uncertainty that hurt farmers and froze investment in next generation technology.
For the first time, the RFS level for conventional biofuels, including corn ethanol, was proposed for the statutorily required 15 billion gallons.
We commend the administration for its commitment to keeping the Renewable Fuel Standard at the level set by Congress.
I’m also pleased the EPA is bringing predictability and stability to the renewable fuels industry. And, we are also extremely appreciative of the administration’s timeliness of this proposal.
In Iowa, we routinely see customers choosing lower cost, higher octane fuels like E15 when given the option.
Despite summertime restrictions, Iowa’s E15 sales grew by 193 percent. And the number of Iowa fuel stations offering their customers the option of E15 grew from 40 to 217 over the last year.
In Iowa, we regularly see a price advantage for E15 to be 10 cents below E10 and 44-50 cents below E0.
Iowa customers experience virtually the same gas mileage with a higher octane, cleaner burning fuel for the price.
We must allow states, fuel retailers and consumers to make the decision on E15—not federal government regulators.
I ask that the EPA immediately grant E15 the same one pound volatility waiver as E10 to allow for year-round market access to E15.
Unfortunately, the EPA’s latest RFS volumes proposal cut the “advanced biofuels” category from 4.28 billion gallons required to 4.24 billion gallons, an important category that biodiesel helps fill.
I was disappointed to see biofuels cut overall, and volumes in biodiesel’s main category stay flat under the Renewable Fuel Standard volumes proposal.
In 2016, the U.S. diesel market consumed 2.8 billion gallons of biomass-based diesel. I therefore question the proposed 2.1 billion gallon level for 2010—three years later.
The justification for a biodiesel number appears to be based on two unfounded concerns.
First, concerns were raised about the ability of U.S. biodiesel producers to meet higher levels.
The U.S. biodiesel industry is barely running over 50 percent capacity.
In Iowa, we’re doing a little better than average. But even in my state last year, we produced about 300 million gallons of biodiesel with roughly 400 million gallons of capacity online and nearing completion.
There is simply no question that there are ample American feedstocks and U.S. capacity to justify a much larger biodiesel number under the law.
The U.S. can meet production demand, despite the influx of foreign-produced biodiesel we’ve seen in our market from places like Argentina and Southeast Asia.
These illegally subsidized imports are pricing U.S. biodiesel producers out of their own market, in many cases, due to trade and other federal policies that need correction.
The correct place to address this is in trade policy at the Commerce Department where corrective action is being taken.
Today, I urge the EPA to set the 2019 biodiesel level at 2.75 billion gallons.
The final area of the proposal that I’d like to comment on is cellulosic ethanol.
The original RFS schedule for cellulosic ethanol was ambitious, which is why the EPA was granted broad waiver authority for this category.
But the methodology employed by EPA to determine the 2018 proposed level for cellulosic ethanol falls short of the intent of the RFS law.
The EPA essentially “looked back” to 2016 in order to set the level for 2018. The “look back” method employed by the EPA falls short and promotes stagnation.
Iowa is home to two large scale commercial cellulosic facilities that utilize corn stover.
We are also proud to have the current largest producer of cellulosic ethanol, the Quad County Corn Processors, which utilizes corn kernel fiber.
Iowa alone also has 12 additional “traditional” ethanol plants on track to produce cellulosic ethanol from corn kernel fiber in 2018.
None of them is accounted for in EPA’s lookback analysis. Combined, the corn kernel fiber plants in Iowa will be capable of producing roughly 25 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol in 2018.
Yet the proposed level assumes only 17 million gallons of liquid cellulosic biofuel from the entire country.
I encourage the EPA to implement the required future projections necessary to properly set the 2018 cellulosic ethanol level in the final rule.
In Iowa, we are focused on diversifying our energy portfolio. Renewable fuels are a key piece of the puzzle that allow us to provide home-grown, cleaner-burning, economical fuels.
We know the success of the renewable fuels industry is critical to the Iowa economy. And for the first time in a decade, there is a significant ongoing expansion.
I ask the EPA, when finalizing this rule, to allow the industry to continue to evolve and flourish.
If you do that, renewable fuels production will provide a much needed boost to Iowa commodity prices in addition to providing the lower cost fuel options consumers crave.
Thank you again for the opportunity to testify today on this very important issue.
The administration’s timely action on the RFS is greatly appreciated, as is your commitment to taking our comments into consideration when finalizing the rule.”
Iowa renewable fuels supporters can weigh in on the RFS proposed levels. The EPA comment period is open now through August 31. To sign a petition supporting ethanol or biodiesel, go to iowarfa.org/rfs.