Poll Shows Iowans Want Biodiesel in State's Diesel Fuel

Poll Shows Iowans Want Biodiesel in State's Diesel Fuel

Proposed biodiesel mandate has support of majority of Iowans.

A poll shows that 66%, nearly seven out of 10 of Iowa voters would support legislation requiring that all diesel fuel sold in Iowa contain at least 5% biodiesel (the B5 blend). The Iowa Biodiesel Board released the results last week of the public opinion survey to show legislators that there is strong support for the proposed "Iowa Biodiesel Fuel Quality Standard" legislation.

The bill, which passed the Iowa Senate last year with bipartisan support and now awaits passage in the Iowa House of Representatives, would ensure that Iowa uses one of its most prominent homegrown products. This biodiesel mandate would benefit the state's economy, environment and energy security, say state legislators who support the bill. Proponents hope to lobby for the biodiesel "B5 bill" in between various budget skirmishes this session at the State Capitol.

"This would create demand for 45 million gallons of Iowa-made biodiesel a year, reducing our state's use of foreign oil by a corresponding amount," says Randy Olson, executive director of the Iowa Biodiesel Board. "Why wouldn't we use our own energy product here?"

66% of Iowans polled would support a bill requiring biodiesel use

A majority of Iowans agree with Olson on that point, according to the poll. Conducted by Moore Information Opinion Research in December, the poll, based on 500 respondents, found that:

* 66% of Iowa voters said they support the B5 legislation.

* Only 16% said they oppose it.

* 18% said they don't know enough about the issue.

* More than four out of five surveyed said they would use biodiesel if given the chance.

Biodiesel is a renewable fuel made from agricultural products such as soybean oil, corn oil, animal fats and restaurant grease. Biodiesel blends can be used in any diesel engine, and up to B5 is legally considered diesel fuel.

Biodiesel industry is bleeding, as plants have shut down

The biodiesel industry has struggled during the past several years, hobbled at first by high soybean oil prices and then by truckers' distrust because the animal fats that were used as a less expensive substitute for soyoil tended to gel in extremely cold weather. The latest blow to biodiesel came when Congress allowed the $1 per gallon tax credit for biodiesel to expire on December 31, 2010. The biodiesel industry and soybean farmers are lobbying Congress to reinstate the biodiesel tax credit, which is needed to keep biodiesel plants operating.

Although once the national leader in biodiesel production capacity, today almost half of Iowa's biodiesel plants are closed or idled. Those left operating have drastically reduced production, as a result of the expiration of the tax credit. "As biodiesel plants close their doors, Iowa has already lost 2,500 green jobs, and its position as the leading biodiesel state," Olson says. "We have an opportunity to reverse this trend, and reinvigorate an industry that still holds promise."

Iowa biodiesel producers lobbying legislature to enact mandate

Iowa has 11 biodiesel plants. "We are confident that there is sufficient public support for biodiesel and the B5 legislation, as demonstrated by the survey," says Olson. The Iowa Biodiesel Board is sharing public opinion information with state lawmakers and asking for their support. Olson says IBB is one of several state organizations supporting the B5 bill. Others include Iowa Farm Bureau, American Lung Association of Iowa, Iowa Soybean Association, Iowa Renewable Fuels Association and Iowa Corn Growers Association. 

A new study released last week by the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association shows Iowa's permanent jobs stemming from the biodiesel industry have dipped from 5,400 in 2008 to 2,900 last year. The industry's contribution to the state Gross Domestic Product in 2008 was $1 billion dollars. That dropped by more than half in 2009.

Last week the IRFA proposed a state mandate for ethanol. They are lobbying the Iowa Legislature for support for a bill that would make a 10% ethanol blend (E10) mandatory in regular gasoline sold in Iowa for highway use.

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