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Iowa Lawmakers Frustrated Over Leaked Proposal Lowering Renewable Fuel Requirements For Oil Refiners

Grant Gerlock
Harvest Public Media file

A leaked proposal suggests the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency may lower the amount of renewable fuel that must be blended into the nation’s transportation fuel supply. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are condemning it.

According to Reuters, the leaked document proposes blending requirements lower than what was set before the pandemic. And Iowa U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, a Republican, isn’t happy about it. He said the document is something he’d expect from big oil advocates, singling out Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and former EPA head Scott Pruitt. He said it’s not something he’d expect from the Biden administration, which has put a large focus on fighting climate change.

“[If] the Biden administration truly cares about climate change, they’ll change these numbers and not hand a massive victory to big oil that they’re always treading on,” said Grassley, during his weekly call with agriculture reporters.

The EPA hasn’t released official numbers. Grassley said the rumored proposal would be a blow to biofuels production in Iowa, which is the top ethanol producer in the country.

“In short, if you mess with the [Renewable Fuel Standard], you mess with the livelihood of Iowans and 87,000 family farmers,” Grassley said.

He pointed to a recent Des Moines Register/Mediacom poll that says 85 percent of Iowans believe the ethanol industry is critical to the state’s economy.

Grassley is not the only one concerned. Iowa U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar joined a group of their Democratic colleagues in writing a letter calling on Biden to hold back from decreasing the requirements.

“Rather than exempting refiners of their obligations under the Clean Air Act, we urge the Administration to provide additional certainty and stability to the renewable fuels marketplace by issuing strong [Renewable Volume Obligations] for 2021 and 2022, and declining to remand any gallons from the 2020 RVO,” the letter said.

The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association also wrote a letter to the Biden administration, expressing their concern over the reports of lowering the blending requirements.

“As the leading producer of ethanol, such an action would materially damage Iowa’s economy at a time when we’re still fighting to build back from several economic blows, including trade wars, COVID-19, RFS refinery exemptions, and a historic derecho,” the group wrote.

Katie Peikes was a reporter for Iowa Public Radio from 2018 to 2023. She joined IPR as its first-ever Western Iowa reporter, and then served as the agricultural reporter.