JOHNSTON, Iowa – In the first quarter of 2014, Iowa motorists put more than 2.7 million gallons of E85 into their vehicles. The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association says that’s a new record for the first quarter of any year, and is an increase of just under 50 percent year-over-year.
Iowa RFA Executive Director Monte Shaw says there are a couple of reasons for the spike in the first quarter.
“First of all, we do have some new stations out there,” says Shaw. “We’re close to 300, so really about one out of every ten stations in Iowa now offers E85; you can find it. But, you have to have a flex-fuel vehicle. Check that out; and then really, it’s price driven. In the first quarter the price was really attractive for E85. Today, it’s even more attractive, so we’re expecting to see bigger numbers.”
The price on E85 is still attractive; at the wholesale level, it’s about half of the cost of regular gasoline. Shaw says that with the price that low, flex-fuel drivers might even save money over the 4th of July weekend by going out of their way to find E85 along their route.
He adds that consumer interest in ethanol is also a lesson for policymakers in Washington considering whether or not they should lower the Renewable Fuel Standard. But wasn’t a ruling on the final RFS levles expected sometime this summer?
“They obviously use a different calendar than you and I use,” says Shaw, laughing. “They’ve got some EPA-only calender, and June usually means October to them. Here’s what I know: the compliance deadline for last year is currently set at September 30th. And so, they’re going to tell you the new rule so that you know how to comply over the two-year period. So I would assume it will come out sometime between now and September 30th, unless we hear that they’re pushing that compliance deadline back further, and then you can assume it’s still coming. What we do know is that it’s not a [The Office of Management and Budget]. The RFS rule is not at the White House OMB Office for interagency review, which take weeks, not days. So we’re not going to wake up tomorrow and have a final decision. Once we hear it goes to OMB for inter-agency review, then we can say ‘Okay, there’s a number of weeks here where, unless something goes wrong, it should come out.’ So I’m not holding my breath at this point.”