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Gov. Kim Reynolds signs ethanol bill in Steamboat Rock

'Going toe to toe with the EPA and Big Oil'

Steam rises from a stack outside the POET ethanol biorefinery in Gowrie, Iowa, on May 17, 2019. CREDIT: Bloomberg photo
Steam rises from a stack outside the POET ethanol biorefinery in Gowrie, Iowa, on May 17, 2019. CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Daniel Acker.

STEAMBOAT ROCK — Flanked by area legislators, Gov. Kim Reynolds signed into law a bill that lowers excise taxes on gasoline blended with ethanol, and she called out the head of the Environmental Protection Agency charged with approving refinery waivers that limit ethanol’s reach.

As she signed the bill at Pine Lake Corn Processors, a Steamboat Rock ethanol plant that produces around 80 million gallons of ethanol per year, Reynolds said the bill was an important way to circumvent “the bureaucrats in Washington, D.C., that seem more interested in the interests of Big Oil than farmers.”

The bill puts the excise tax for gas without ethanol at 30 cents per gallon, while gas with ethanol blended in will receive an excise tax of between 24 cents and 30 cents, depending on how much ethanol is blended in.

For biodiesel, the excise tax would range between 29 and a half cents per gallon to 32 and a half cents per gallon.

“This is going to make higher-blended biofuels even cheaper at the pump,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds also called on EPA head Andrew Wheeler to “reject the excessive number of waivers” that oil refineries ask for to avoid blending ethanol into gasoline as required by the Renewable Fuel Standard.

“We’re going toe to toe with the EPA and Big Oil to do everything we can to protect ethanol,” Reynolds said.

James Broghammer, CEO of Pine Lake, said recent times haven’t been easy on ethanol plants like his, noting some in Iowa have closed down amid a down economy and refinery waivers that cut into their business.

“I’m sure you’ve heard ethanol is not in a very happy state, but we’re still here and we’re still running,” he said.

Around 25 percent of all ethanol production in the United States comes from around 40 plants in Iowa, Broghammer said, amounting to 4.1 billion gallons in 2019.

Seventy-five percent of Pine Lake’s expenses were to Iowa corn farmers, he added.

“If you want to talk about an industry that supports Iowa, supports the United States, it’s ethanol,” Broghammer said.

State Sen. Randy Feenstra, who is running for U.S. Rep. Steve King’s seat after ousting King in the primary, agreed.

“It is the crux of our agricultural economy in Iowa,” Feenstra said.

Reynolds also announced an additional $7 million in federal CARES Act money would be going to help struggling ethanol plant operators upgrade their infrastructure, adding to the $3 million previously announced.

“We really want to help the biofuels industry bounce back,” she said.

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