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Iowa lawmakers trying to expand access to E-15 fuel

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DES MOINES (KWWL) - Iowa lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are trying to pass a bill that would make ethanol-rich fuel more available in our state.

At the direction of the governor, lawmakers are aiming to make E-15 fuel available at most gas stations by 2026. E-15 fuel is 15% ethanol and 85% gasoline (technically the opposite mixture of E-85 fuel).

The specific language of the bill is:

  • If a gas station only has one pump, that pump must offer E-15
  • If a gas station has multiple pumps, at least half must offer E-15
  • If a station has the means to add the new fuel, it must do so by 2026; unless it completes a tank upgrade between 2023 - which case the pumps would need to go in when construction is done
  • If a station does not have the means to make this add-on or cannot afford it, it can apply for a waiver with the Secretary of Agriculture

"Iowa is the number one producer of ethanol and biodiesel. And if we want other states to promote the product, I think we need to step up," Rep. Lee Hein said, R-Monticello, who is the bill manager in the House.

HSB 594 passed out of the Ways and Means Committee with bipartisan support on Wednesday. 

"Democrats have always been strong supporters of renewable fuels and I was proud to support the bill today. I'm going to keep working to get this bipartisan bill to the governor's desk this session," Rep. Dave Jacoby, D-Iowa City, said.

There has been worry in the past that a bill like this could force some small, "mom and pop" gas stations to close if they can't upgrade. 

Rep. Hein says that is not a concern anymore, because stations can apply for a waiver, and the bill would establish a fund of up to $1.25 million per year to help stations pay for upgrades if they choose.

A lobbyist representing Casey's General Stores says he is not opposed to the bill, but wants to review the language of the waiver system to make sure it is easy enough on small stores.

"We want to make sure and just double-check that this bill truly will have no negative impact on those stores," Tom Cope said, a lobbyist for Casey's.

The bill will next be voted on by the full house.

E-15 fuel is safe for all normal, passenger cars made after 2001, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. However, it will likely lead to lower gas mileage because ethanol is less energy-dense than traditional gasoline.