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Bioenergy > United States > Midwest United States > Iowa

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The midwestern state of Iowa is the largest producer of corn, as well as the biofuels ethanol and biodiesel.








Biofuel production


  • 2006 tax policy to promote biofuels.


  • 7 states fight California rule over ethanol carbon scores 19 March 2012 by Adam Belz for USA TODAY: "A California rule assigning higher carbon scores to fuel produced outside the state has drawn the ire of the ethanol industry and the Midwestern states that produce most of the ethanol in the U.S."
    • "At least seven states — Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, North Dakota and South Dakota— are opposing California's effort to enforce the mandate, which critics say threatens the renewable fuels business in the nation's grain belt."
    • "In December, a federal judge blocked California's Air Resources Board from enforcing the regulation, which encourages refiners to blend gasoline with ethanol produced in Brazil or California. The California rule considers Midwestern ethanol to have a larger carbon footprint. The judge said the rule unconstitutionally interferes with interstate commerce. California officials are appealing the decision."
    • "The rule hinges on the concept of indirect land use change, Thorne said. The idea is that if farmers in the U.S. sell their grain for ethanol, farmers in other parts of the world must grow more corn for the food supply, pumping more carbon into the atmosphere, he said."
    • "Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning, who said the regulation threatens $1.3 billion in annual ethanol sales from his state alone, called the indirect land use change a 'highly controversial and undeveloped theory,' in a brief signed by attorneys general from five other states."[1]
  • U.S. Backs Project to Produce Fuel From Corn Waste, 6 July 2011 by The New York Times: "The Energy Department plans to provide a $105 million loan guarantee for the expansion of an ethanol factory in Emmetsburg, Iowa, that intends to make motor fuel from corncobs, leaves and husks."
    • "Experts say that the new factory, being built by POET, a major producer of ethanol derived from corn kernels, could be the first commercial-scale plant to make ethanol from a nonfood, or cellulosic, plant source."
    • "Commercial production of ethanol from waste products like husks is the holy grail of the ethanol industry, and other companies have stumbled in their quest to achieve that goal."
    • "If celluosic ethanol could be produced in an economical fashion, it would vastly increase the American potential to make motor vehicle fuel and reduce use of fossil fuels. It could reduce the use of corn in the manufacture of ethanol as a motor fuel, which is criticized for reducing food supplies for people and animals."[2]
  • Nevada will get next-generation ethanol plant, 28 June 2011 by "Nevada will be the site of one of the world's few next-generation ethanol plants, DuPont announced Monday."
    • "The biorefinery will use corncobs, leaves and stalks as feedstock rather than corn."
    • "To remain a leader in ethanol production, Iowa must find an efficient, cost-effective way to harvest the tons of biomass left on fields and turn it into biofuel."
    • "Federal renewable-energy goals will require refiners to use 36 billion gallons of ethanol a year by 2022, and much of it from sources other than cornstarch."
    • "DuPont Danisco is working with local farmers to get commitments for collecting cobs, leaves and stalks from their fields. The plant will need about 300,000 dry tons of stover annually."[3]
  • Battle Between Ethanol and Pork May Cause Corn Shortage, 8 June 2011 by "A large international turnout is expected here this week at the World Pork Expo in Iowa. Hot topics include pushing for free trade with Panama, Colombia, and especially South Korea."
    • "The hottest topic, however, is the price of corn. Thursday, the USDA updates its outlook on this year's corn crop, the first update since flooding delayed planting."
    • "Which leads to the big beef between hogs and ethanol. Both are competing for corn, and after September, there may not be enough to go around."
    • "In its defense, the ethanol industry highlights the fact that after it extracts what it needs from corn, it sells the residual product back to the livestock industry as a nutritious, concentrated feed (though it contains less energy). This residual is called Dried Distillers Grains, or DDG."
    • "Hog farmers and meat packers are discovering that pigs don't process the DDGs the same way, and too much of the stuff in the diet affects the meat."
    • "So now hog farmers have one more reason to complain about ethanol."[4]
  • Sen. Harkin: Biofuels Don’t Contribute to World Hunger, 18 April 2011 by "Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) dismissed concerns Thursday that ethanol and other biofuels are contributing to rising food prices and world hunger."
    • "The five-term Senator said the U.S. has not reduced the amount of corn it exports, and increased ethanol production in recent years has been matched by increased corn production."
    • "Biofuels currently account for nearly 10 percent of U.S. gasoline supplies. The 13 billion gallons America produces each year fall well short of the 36 billion gallons 2007’s Renewable Fuel Standard requires the country to produce by 2022."
    • "Harkin said that number is still attainable, but several of the committee’s members cited concerns that the U.S. has maxed out how much ethanol it can produce. This fear stems from the fact most fuel in America is 90 percent gasoline and 10 percent ethanol, creating a 'blend wall' that prevents ethanol from accounting for more than 10 percent of the nation’s fuel."
    • "Harkin said the Biofuels Market Expansion Act, which he introduced in January, would help the country push past the blend wall. The bill would require car companies to make more flex-fuel vehicles – which can operate on more than one fuel at a time – and gas companies to equip more of their filling stations with blender pumps that provide fuel with higher concentrations of ethanol."[5]
  • Ethanol industry watching federal tax credit, 7 February 2011 by "The 3.5 billion gallons of ethanol pumped out yearly in Iowa makes the Hawkeye State the nation's top producer."
    • "Iowa Ag Secretary Bill Northey says ethanol's success is supplemented by a federal tax credit, amounting to 45-cents per gallon for the ethanol blender. It's worth a total of $9 billion and runs through the end of the year."
    • "Northey feels confident the credit will be renewed for 2012, but maybe not at its current level, though he says that's not all bad."
    • "One good sign for the industry is the recently-approved increase of ethanol allowed to blend into gasoline, from 10 to 15%."
    • "Something else the renewable energy industry has its eye on is the biodiesel tax credit for 2012. After Congress decided to go without it in 2010, Northey says it badly hurt the industry, which is why it was reinstated for this year."[6]
  • Tsunami: Top 10 Impacts for Biofuels from US Elections, 3 November 2010 by Biofuels Digest: "US voters gave control of the House of Representatives to the Republican Party, when Democrats lost at least 57 seats in the House and six Senate seats in the 2012 mid-term elections."
    • "But what does it mean for biofuels? ...[Ten] impacts — ranging from people to policies — can be seen even now."
    • "The bottom line: moderately positive for biofuels. One of the few areas where Republicans and Democrats agree on priorities is the importance of reforming US energy policy, and biofuels enjoy bipartisan support, especially advanced biofuels. Though the Farm Bill may push to 2013, and gridlock may reign, Obama will have to run on something other than health care and the 2009 stimulus, and is likely to reach out on energy."
    • "Among the survivors....Leonard Boswell of Iowa survived a challenge to his House seat from Brad Zaun, who had opposed the biodiesel tax credit extension."
    • "Ethanol tax credit. Full-court pressure will now be on to pass the ethanol tax credit before a huge freshman class of spending-wary House members come to Washington. With time pressure, ethanol proponents will take less of a hard line, and look for the ethanol tax credit to drop to 36 cents or lower."[8]
  • DOE, USDA Announce Funding for Biomass Research and Development Initiative, 6 May 2010, press release by the Department of Energy: "The U.S. Departments of Energy (DOE) and Agriculture (USDA) today jointly announced up to $33 million in funding for research and development of technologies and processes to produce biofuels, bioenergy and high-value biobased products, subject to annual appropriations."
    • "DOE also released today a new video which showcases how cellulosic biofuel technologies can help decrease U.S. dependence on foreign oil, spur growth in the domestic biofuels industry, and provide new revenue opportunities to farmers in many rural areas of the country."
    • "The video, shot at a harvesting equipment demonstration in Emmetsburg, Iowa, highlights a new way of producing ethanol from the cellulose fibers in corn cobs, not from the corn kernels. The technology generates a new opportunity for farmers to harvest and sell the cobs that they’d normally leave in the field."[9]
Change in Corn Plantings as Percent of County Area, 2004-2007 in the U.S. Prairie Pothole Region.
  • Vilsack: Some Hard Choices on Ethanol, 18 December 2008 by Time - USA: "Iowa is the ethanol capital of the nation, and President-elect Barack Obama has been a reliable supporter of biofuels, so it's no surprise that former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack, his choice for agriculture secretary, has been an even more reliable supporter of biofuels, even chairing a national coalition on ethanol".
    • "Vilsack does have predictably close ties to traditional agriculture and agribusiness, and he did run the nation's leading corn and soybean state. But he's also been a supporter of farm conservation programs, clean water regulations, and a cap-and-trade scheme to prevent global warming."
    • "Vilsack suggested that second-generation biofuels like cellulosic ethanol manufactured from switchgrass could solve the problem, particularly if it was grown on non-productive hillsides so that it wouldn't displace food crops." [12]
  • Uprising Against the Ethanol Mandate, 23 July 2008 by the New York Times: "Gov. Rick Perry of Texas is asking the Environmental Protection Agency to temporarily waive regulations requiring the oil industry to blend ever-increasing amounts of ethanol into gasoline. A decision is expected in the next few weeks."
    • "His request for an emergency waiver cutting the ethanol mandate to 4.5 billion gallons, from the 9 billion gallons required this year and the 10.5 billion required in 2009, is backed by a coalition of food, livestock and environmental groups."
    • "In ethanol’s home ground of the Midwest, where much of the corn is grown and the additive is made, Mr. Perry’s petition was opposed by 12 governors. Senator Charles Grassley, Republican of Iowa, accused the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the group leading the public relations fight against ethanol, of 'treasonous' acts."[13]
  • Study: biofuels industry added 10% to Iowa's GDP in 2007, 1 February 2008, Biopact. The study, published by the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association finds that the construction of new biorefineries for both biodiesel and ethanol has driven growth in the agricultural economy, especially in rural areas.
  • Where ethanol is king, 9 March 2007 by Alan Boyle in CosmicLog, the science blog of MSNBC: "If America follows through on its biofuel aspirations and creates an "OPEC of ethanol," Iowa could well become one of its most energy-rich emirates." Boyle states that "the biofuel boom is already changing Iowa - for good and potentially for ill."
    • Demand for corn for ethanol production has raised the price of corn to "over $4 a bushel" -- which is beneficial for corn producers, and detrimental for livestock producers.
    • "The higher prices have led some farmers to boost the acreage they'll be devoting to corn when the planting season begins - and the federal government just might give farmers an "early out" from conservation set-aside contracts to boost the land put into production. There's also evidence that crop rotations might be tweaked to favor corn."[14]
    • If sustainable farming methods are not implemented, "soil erosion could create a situation in which the state loses a pound of topsoil for every gallon of ethanol gained," according to Robert Anex, Associate Director of the Office of Biorenewable Programs at Iowa State University.[15]
  • New Iowa Legislation to Boost Renewable Fuel Use, 7 June 2006 from EERE News, reported on new legislation that "creates a tax credit for selling E85...that starts at 25 cents per gallon and phases out by 2021, and another tax credit of three cents per gallon for diesel blends containing at least 2 percent biodiesel."


Governmental organizations

Nongovernmental organizations




See books, reports, scientific papers, position papers and websites for additional useful resources.

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