Biodiesel production is expanding in Iowa, and proactive state policies have played a pivotal role in keeping the state’s title as the nation’s leading producer. At its recent Biodiesel Day on the Hill, the Iowa Biodiesel Board announced that the state’s capacity to produce biodiesel is on the rise by nearly 20%, from 334 million gallons a year to almost 400 million gallons a year. Expansion projects currently underway or recently completed led to the boost.
“It’s no accident that Iowa’s biodiesel manufacturing sector is thriving above all other states,” says Grant Kimberley, IBB executive director. “Our proactive state biodiesel policies have effectively increased production and consumption in Iowa, benefiting our economy.” Those policies include the Iowa Renewable Fuels Infrastructure Program, which provides grants to help fuel distributors and retailers modernize equipment to include biofuels.
Members and supporters of IBB met with state legislators at the recent Biodiesel Day on the Hill to ask for funding for the program for another year. “It’s important that we continue to create opportunities for customers to access these clean-burning homegrown fuels,” says Bill Northey, Iowa secretary of agriculture. “Iowa is fortunate to have many retailers making significant investments to provide their customers with renewable fuels, and the Iowa Renewable Fuels Infrastructure Program is available to support their efforts.”
Cost-share helps retailers install pumps
The program has resulted in 261 new biodiesel retail pumps and 55 terminal locations throughout the state since 2006, giving all Iowans greater access to this American-made renewable fuel.
Biodiesel plants that have recently expanded capacity or are in the process include:
• AGP at Sergeant Bluff, from 30 million gallons a year to 60 mgy
• REG at Ralston, from 12 mgy to 30 mgy
• Western Iowa Energy at Wall Lake, from 30 mgy to 45 mgy
Another biodiesel plant, W2Fuel at Crawfordsville in southeast Iowa, has begun producing again after a hiatus. In 2016, Iowa’s biodiesel plants produced a record 305 million gallons of biodiesel. According to a study by ABF Economics, biodiesel activity generated about 3,800 full-time-equivalent jobs in Iowa, and $300 million of household income.
Kimberley says federal programs like the Renewable Fuel Standard have driven biodiesel’s success nationwide, but the states with the strongest policies help determine who plays the biggest role in production, and capture the resulting economic benefits. Biodiesel is an advanced biofuel made from agricultural byproducts and coproducts, such as soybean oil. The Iowa Biodiesel Board is a state trade association representing the biodiesel industry.
All farmers urged to use biodiesel
March 18 is a day of significance each year: It’s National Biodiesel Day, honoring Rudolf Diesel on his birthday. A renewable fuel visionary, he ran early models of his engine on peanut oil.
“I think Diesel would be proud of us in Iowa, as the top biodiesel-producing state,” says Ron Heck, a member of the IBB who farms near Perry. “It’s no coincidence that Iowa’s biodiesel-manufacturing sector is thriving. The proactive state biodiesel policies passed by our Legislature and supported by Gov. Branstad have effectively increased production and consumption in Iowa, benefiting all sectors of our economy.”
On his central Iowa farm, Heck has used a biodiesel blend in his tractors and vehicles for many years. “A thriving biodiesel market helps everyone in the ag sector, including livestock producers,” he says. “I encourage all farmers to support their own products by using biodiesel as they head into spring planting.”