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Iowa Governor Signs Renewable Fuels Standard; 25% by 2020

Dark green marks the states with enacted RFS and light green the states currently in legislative process.

Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack today signed several pieces of legislation designed to grow Iowa’s renewable energy and bio-energy industries, including a state Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) of 25% by 2020—the most aggressive state RFS yet. (Earlier post.) Other bills promote wind, solar, and new uses for soy-based products.

Iowa becomes the fifth state to enact legislation defining a state-level RFS; another six states are in varying stages of the legislative process with their own RFS proposals.

In January, I asked legislators to make a long-term commitment to my vision of making Iowa the nation’s leader in renewable fuels production. This legislation will help propel our nation into an era of clean energy and renewable fuel use that eases our dependence on foreign oil. With our continuing progress, Iowa is set to become the leader in research, development, and distribution of all forms of renewable energy.

—Governor Vilsack

The House bill, HF 2754, and its companion appropriation bill, HF 2759, create:

  • A renewable fuels standard (RFS) starting at 10% in 2009 and increasing to 25% by 2019.

  • A new ethanol promotion tax credit for each gallon of ethanol blended into gasoline (replaces existing tax credit beginning in 2009). This incentive is linked to a retailer dealer’s achievement of the RFS schedule. The tax credit increases from 2.5 cents per gallon (c/g) for retailers within 4% of the RFS schedule to 6.5 c/g for retailers meeting or exceeding the RFS schedule.

  • A retail tax credit for E85 of 25 c/g (phases out by 2020).

  • A retail tax credit for biodiesel blends of 3 c/g (for retailers who sell more than 50% biodiesel blends.

  • $13 million over three year to expand an infrastructure program designed to help retailers and wholesalers offset the cost of bringing E85 and biodiesel blends to consumers.

The RFS does not mandate a specific blend percentage, but allows gasoline retailers flexibility in meeting the standard through the sale of E10, E85, and biodiesel blends.

Currently, Iowa has 25 ethanol refineries with the capacity to produce over 1.5 billion gallons annually. There are 4 ethanol refineries and two major expansions under construction with a combined annual capacity of 425 million gallons. In addition, Iowa has 6 biodiesel refineries with a combined annual capacity of over 100 million gallons either in operation or under construction.



RFS and RPS (fuel and portfolio [electricity generation]) standards are becoming both more common and more aggressive, both outstanding developments in my opinion.

But: what is the enforcement? How do states make sure that it gets done, especially when any given project (agro-refinery, wind farm, etc) is met with sharp NIMBYism?


At least they don't stipulate blends for gasoline, since your average car can only use up to E10.

Rafael Seidl

Cervus -

that's precisely why E10 nationwide would be a better idea than E85 in just a few states. Then again, that would require a national as opposed to state-by-state energy policy. However, there is the problem of ethanol transportation; it's very hygroscopic so it must not enter pipelines.

Stormy -

As for enforcement, random sampling will deter anyone trying to cheat, just as with fuel quality now. If you get caught, it will be all over the papers and your customers will stay away. Plus, you get fined. Not worth it.

How much resistance is there to the construction of new biorefineries in rural Iowa? I suspect there are not too many NIMBYs there.

allen zheng

____Sweet sorghum to produce ethanol and butanol yields 600-800 gallon per acre vs 300-400 gallons/acre corn. Sorghum also uses less water overall and stands up well to drought and high temps of the Great Plains. Continue to rotate Soy for nitro fixing and have rapeseed cover crop for winter erosion control/bio-oil.
____In the end the yields of >5,000 gallons/acre bio oil with biomass waste for feed/fuel/minerals from algae could make fuel from Soy and Corn moot. Just use Federal land in the Southwest (California, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah) that is barren desert (not cactus), whether it be military bases, or federal reservation under Dept. of Interior.
____The construction of one on the shores of the Salton Sea as a way to treat the water of excess nutrients before it reaches the ring meant for wildlife. Water in the reservoirs of the Southwest could host containers/ bags made of recycled white plastic that have open tops and closed sides and bottoms to host and enclose algae. They will absorb excess fertilizer runoff. Piping in CO2 from power plants will help them grow.



I'm not really a proponent for ethanol for that reason and others, relating to energy density and the fact that corn is a poor feedstock. I discovered butanol a few months ago and would like to see that technology come into wide use. Unlike ethanol, it can be shipped through pipelines, and has energy density and combustion properties very similar to gasoline.

EEI also claims they can use the same feedstocks as ethanol. Since butanol is about 42% more energy dense than ethanol, I think their process would have a more favorable energy balance using corn.

allen zheng

Use waste heat from power plants (esp coal, maybe nuke) to drive the energy (heat) intensive steps in bio-fuel processing. At least they could preheat, at most, they could run the entire process. Another possibility would be to use the post turbine steam/heat in powerplants to run high temp electrolysis of water. Hydrogen could be sold or added for combustion improvement, and the oxygen could be used for the syngas step/combustion enhancement/sold.

Robert Schwartz

GLENDOWER: I can call spirits from the vasty deep.

HOTSPUR: Why, so can I, or so can any man; But will they come when you do call for them?

The First Part of the History of King Henry the Fourth by William Shakespeare; ACT III, SCENE I. Bangor. The Archdeacon's house


I keep seeing references to using butanol as a fuel. I'm just curious if any of the advocates have ever smelled butanol? Not that I would advocate anyone to smell butanol, as butanol is toxic neurotoxin (TLV = 20 ppm). Fortunately the odor threshold is lower, at about 1 ppm. But, wow, does it stink.

Another question about butanol: I'm not really very good at engines, so I was wondering how the low vapor pressure (about 5 mmHG @ 68F) would work in a normal engine. Would such a low vapor pressure material cause any problems? For instance, ethanol is about 10 times more volatile at the same temperature.

shaun mann

I agree with Rafael. Butanol sounds better today than ethanol, especially since butanol is 100% compatible with current engines.

Does anyone know if the Iowa standards are ethanol-specific or is any renewable fuel acceptable?


I really think that the Katrina debacle played a major role in these localized political shifts towards more conscious environmental and energy goals. Realizing that a natural disaster does not necessarily come part and parcel with a competent government response is good motivation to go about seeking your own solutions.


"I keep seeing references to using butanol as a fuel. I'm just curious if any of the advocates have ever smelled butanol? Not that I would advocate anyone to smell butanol, as butanol is toxic neurotoxin (TLV = 20 ppm). Fortunately the odor threshold is lower, at about 1 ppm. But, wow, does it stink."

Is it possible that your experience is with petroleum based butanol, and that odor is due to other impurities within that? Is it a fact that butanol derived from corn and theoretically purified would smell the same?

allen zheng

Gasoline is a toxic chemical, especially if it is the low quality type that contains benzene. The only leg up ethanol has on butanol is in mixtures that need more oxygen content.


Angelo said:
"Is it possible that your experience is with petroleum based butanol, and that odor is due to other impurities within that? Is it a fact that butanol derived from corn and theoretically purified would smell the same?"

Nope, pure butanol stinks.

(Actually butanol is usually made from the partial oxidation of natural gas, and is not really "petroleum" based.)

And butanol is 15 times more toxic than gasoline. (Butanol TLV = 20 ppm, gasoline TLV = 300 ppm)

Don't take my word for it. Go to Google and search
for "butanol MSDS" and then "gasoline MSDS". (MSDS means "material safety data sheet".) Sure gasoline has benzene and other nasties that can cause long term exposure problems like cancer and CNS damage (think kids sniffing gas cans), but butanol is ACUTELY toxic, and can cause immediate health problems from a single exposure at lower concentrations. Interestingly, while methanol will make you go blind, butanol seems to attack hearing first, and will make you go deaf.

Another real pleasant detail is that butanol is very soluble through the skin or lungs. Being splashed with or inhaling butanol vapor can have the same toxic effects as drinking it. That's why folks handling butanol wear rubber clothing, monogoggles, face shield, rubber gloves, etc. The protective clothing isn't just for show in this case.

I still don't understand how butanol would work in a car, given its low vapor pressure. Isn't normal fuel usually vaporized in the carburetor or fuel pump before ignition? Or is it only partly vaporized, and mostly atmoized? How will that happen with butanol? Will there have to be a heater in the fuel line?

Thanks for the chance discuss this. I'd like to learn more about how butanol would work in a car.



Environmental Energy, Inc. drove a 1992 Buick on 100% butanol last year, for thousands of miles. You can find a lot of information there. I was unaware of the toxicity, though since there are several isomers of butanol I wonder if it's consistant across them.


Ethanol has a lower vapor pressure than gasoline and as such it is more difficult to start in cold weather than gasoline, this is why the vehicles in brazill have a 2nd tank for gasoline that they use to start the engine then switch to the E85 or whatever it is they use.

New cars use fuel injection, and have since the early 90's
you definitely do not want the gas to vaporize in the fule pump ...that is called vapor lock.

The fuel is injected as a liquid, it forms little droplets as it exits the injector. Direct injection uses a higher pressure 1000's of psi rather than 10's of psi
to make smaller droplets so that it vaporizes faster.


To go from 2.5% ethanol nationwide now to 10% in the future would mean going from 3.5 billion gallons a year to 14 billion gallons per year. There is a huge investment involved in quadrupling the ethanol production and I do not see that kind of investment happening overnight.


I suggest going to this site below and learning about bio reactor formed butanol rather than the petroleum extract. The myths associated with butanol/ethanol usage by the american petroluem institute I see are in full force even at this site :) they have been very good with their disinformation.

this is the newspaper article about the cross country trip in an unmodified car. The entreprenuer lit a vial of butanol in front of the reporter. I think an "objective" person like a reporter with no technical background would comment on things like a particularly offensive smell as well.

As far as the comment that butanol is more toxic than gasoline gave me a real chuckle. Gasoline is toxic waste essentially, with components of benzene, toulene, and xylene mixed in other possible 400 compounds in this chemical "soup" that varies during the year. Which...they are selling you at premium prices. Butanol is an alcohol although the petroluem version no doubt carries remnants of other compounds.

Natural Gas IS a petroluem product, it is formed by the same processes that forms crude oil. It is present in with oil in wells, or found seperately. It also can be very toxic because it contains quite a few of the same compounds as crude so it has to go thru a refining/extraction process before it is sold on the open market.

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