Biofuel supporters expect industry to be up to challenges

2013-02-07T08:00:00Z Biofuel supporters expect industry to be up to challenges By Gene Lucht, Iowa Farmer Today Iowa Farmer Today
February 07, 2013 8:00 am  • 

ALTOONA — Many challenges face ethanol and other biofuels in 2013.

Some of the obstacles are in the courts and halls of Congress and various state legislatures.

“These challenges are going to continue to rise,” says Tom Buis, president of Growth Energy. “We were the darlings of everyone until we became a market factor, and then the guns came out.”

Still, Buis expects biofuels to win more battles than they lose in the next year or two. He also says farmers and industry leaders need to continue to work to educate consumers.

The push for blender pumps and for acceptance of E15 blends of ethanol will be a part of that, he says.

Buis suggests blender pumps, which can supply different percentages of ethanol in the fuel, might be better described as flex-pumps.

“We don’t always connect with consumers,” he explains. “We have to start thinking (about names and consumer attitudes).” Buis offered his opinions during this past week’s Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit.

However, Anne Korin with the Institute for the Analysis for Global Security suggested instead of pushing blender pumps, farmers should be pushing harder for flex-fuel vehicles.

It is inexpensive for today’s vehicles to be made flex-fuel capable. For a little more money per vehicle, they could actually be made “high-performance” flex-fuel vehicles, she added.

If that push were to be successful. it would eliminate the battle over acceptance of E15 and any later pushes for E20 or E30.

Cars designed to perform on high-octane ethanol blends would enable auto companies to better meet new federal standards, she says.

Meanwhile, a number of transportation and farm groups have been pushing Iowa’s Legislature to approve an increase in the fuel-use tax as a way to pay for much-needed road and bridge repairs and replacements.

Renewable fuels leaders haven’t taken a stand on that policy, but if it goes through, they would like the increase to include a differential so the 10, 15 or 85 percent of the fuel that has ethanol would contribute a smaller amount toward that tax.

The amount going to roads would be the same, explains Monte Shaw, executive director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, but the differential would allow renewable fuels to be sold cheaper at the pump than the non-renewable fuels.

When speaking to the group, Gov. Terry Branstad said he would not support a gas-tax increase unless the Legislature first addresses his proposals dealing with property taxes.

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