I read with interest the Feb. 15 story “Biofuel bill pits retailers, farmers.” I take issue with some of the points made by the so-called “Fuel Choice Coalition.” This organization includes well-known Iowa-based convenience stores like Casey’s and Kum & Go.
They say that the proposed Iowa Biofuels Standard, which would blend more biodiesel and ethanol into our state’s fuel supply, would limit consumer choice. This is nonsense when you consider Americans have had no choice in fuel whatsoever until very recently in history. In fact, the petroleum industry has had virtually no competition since its origin in the 1800s. It seems to have grown accustomed to unfettered dominance.
I believe this legislation gives Iowa a new and better choice — the power to collectively choose something other than pure petroleum. In 2019, Department of Revenue data show only about 100 retail locations in Iowa sold blends of 20% biodiesel (B20) or higher, out of 1,400 Iowa retailers reporting. E15 is similarly underrepresented. We should make it a priority to grow that, and I applaud Gov. Kim Reynolds for leading this effort.
I support this proposed legislation as both a retired fleet manager and as a veteran of the Gulf War. Having overseen the use of B20 in a state fleet for years, I know it performs extremely well, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to fleet managers or truckers. As a veteran, my support for this policy only multiplies. I saw many burning oil wells while transporting supplies and enemy prisoners. It woke me up to the direct connection between national security and our current dependence on foreign-sourced petroleum. It also gave me a deep appreciation for renewable fuels, grown within our shores with one of our most powerful and innovative resources — American agriculture.
Iowa is the largest biofuels-producing state, so why shouldn’t our policies encourage the use of our own homegrown products that support jobs here in Iowa, as well as our farm economy, over fuel made largely from foreign oil? Renewable fuels are also cleaner-burning and have proven themselves as high-performance time and again.
As other parts of the country move “full steam ahead” with electrification and other technologies, perhaps the petroleum industry should recognize this legislation as a lifeline rather than a threat. With biofuels, we have our own homegrown, low-carbon solutions, and unlike competing technologies, they work easily with petroleum and petroleum infrastructure. A thriving liquid fuels industry will help ensure those stores can stay open and continue to sell pizzas, doughnuts and snacks.
We find our state at a critical juncture: Accept that petroleum has every right to continue its monopoly, or tap into, and even lead, a remarkable shift occurring in our nation’s evolving energy supply. The choice is ours.
David May is a retired fleet manager for the Iowa Department of Transportation and a U.S. Army veteran.