Senate Vote On E15 Could Be Early Test For 2020 Democrats In Iowa

An upcoming vote on a little-known EPA rule on E15 ethanol could pose an early first test for potential presidential candidates looking to come through Iowa. The U.S. Senate’s Environmental and Public Works committee will soon consider the Consumer and Fuel Retailer Choice Act, which allows E15 fuel to be sold during the summer months. Renewable fuel advocates see it as a key priority for expanding ethanol usage.

Currently, you can only sell E15 for eight and a half months out of the year. The issue has to do with Reid vapor pressure restrictions, which sees fuel evaporation rates climb in the warmer summer months that can affect air quality. But E10 ethanol was already granted a special exemption to RVP standards, and E15 has a better air quality rating than it.

Iowa retailers and farmers are watching the issue closely because of the confusion and instability of having E15 available at the pump for only part of the year. It’s made it more difficult for E15 to catch on and grow its market share when it either disappears from gas stations for several months or suddenly gets labeled as “flex-fuel only” for a while. Corn markets have been particularly rough this year, and a new way to get more corn products to consumers would be useful to them.

Five Democratic senators on the Environmental and Public Works committee are often mentioned as potential 2020 contenders: Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, Cory Booker and Jeff Merkley. Sanders already committed to boosting ethanol efforts during his presidential run, but several of the other Democrats on the committee don’t have as long a record on the issue.

Merkley is making a trip to Iowa this September, which raised questions of his future ambitions. The location of his speech? Progress Iowa’s Corn Feed fundraiser.

Regardless of how it might impact their chances in Iowa, how presidential candidates handle ethanol and renewable fuel policies could play a part in their electability pitch to Democrats. The party lost significant ground in rural counties in Midwestern states, and many Democrats are looking for candidates who can win those places back, or at least not do as poorly there as Hillary Clinton did in 2016. Part of any candidate’s rural economy proposal would likely involve renewable energy. An early vote against ethanol expansion could make that outreach to rural America and farmers more difficult.

The legislation is currently being held up by opposition from Republican Senators John Barrasso and Jim Inhofe, two of the Senate’s leading climate change deniers. Iowa Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst (Ernst sits on the committee) have pushed for the change, and former Governor Terry Branstad signed on in public support before leaving for China.

It could pose one more challenge to Democrats’ efforts to win back votes in rural Iowa if a Democratic presidential nominee opposed a key renewable fuel policy favored by farmers, while Republican state leaders supported it. So there will be more than industry leaders watching closely as those five senators vote on the E15 measure.


by Pat Rynard
Posted 7/17/17

17 Comments on "Senate Vote On E15 Could Be Early Test For 2020 Democrats In Iowa"

  • I work for the biofuels industry and will be sure to use this vote when thinking about who to vote for. We need a strong Democrat who understands the midwest if we want to take the White House backmin 2020. Thanks for flagging!

  • Any 2020 contenders who want to garner support in the Midwest will need to support E15. This was proven last cycle when clearly stronger Republican candidates were sent packing in Iowa due to a lack of support for ethanol. A lesser candidate won out with a pro ethanol stance. E15 is important for the U.S. consumer, the investors in cellulosic ethanol, and the Midwest economy. I certainly will be watching this vote.

  • Support for renewable energy (of which support for E-15 is a critical test) will be an key issue for Democratic caucus-goers in 2020. Given the potential for a close race and a large field, this E-15 vote could play a key role not only in determining who wins the Iowa caucus in 2020, but who else secures the other two traditional “three tickets out of Iowa” by coming in second or third.

  • Great opportunity for Democrats to do the right thing and vote in favor of this bill. My neighbors in town and I are following this bill very closely!

  • As a mom, there are many things that matter to me when I cast my vote – and taking care of our environment is at the top of the list. I wasn’t aware of this bill prior to this post but now will be watching very closely. I hope these senators make the right decision and vote in favor of this bill. Iowa will be watching!

  • As someone who has organized in Iowa at the presidential and state level, I can tell you this is an issue that many Iowans care deeply about. Any 2020 presidential hopeful needs to offer their unwavering support for this bill if they hope to gain the support of Iowans during the caucus.

  • As a native Iowa, I can assure any candidate who would like to do well in the upcoming presidential primary that this is an issue near and dear to Iowans!

  • Good for Iowa and better for the environment, seems like it will be pretty tough for any Democratic candidate to justify not supporting it.

  • Ethanol has meant more Iowa jobs for 30 years, and any Democrat running for statewide or federal office should get behind the E-15 bill. A no-brainer.

  • The United States is addicted to fossil fuels, which helps Big Oil’s profits and hurts the environment. By supporting S. 517 – the Consumer and Fuel Retailer Choice Act, we can create a greener planet for my children and future generations. I hope the 2020 presidential hopefuls vote for S. 517 and make it a priority as they come to Iowa to talk to voters.

  • Iowans hate ethanol.If one were to recall,,,,Ted Cruz won the Iowa Caucus. And he was not vary big fan of ethanol.Also those who ran for the Iowa Senate or House, while supporting ethanol .Also lost.Nationally the ethanol Lobby has not had much success getting any of their agenda passed. Any ethanol related on social media ,is usually meet with a lot on negative comments. Seems a lot of folks have been vary disappointed with the Claims from the ethanol promoters

    • Trump won Iowa in the general election by such a large margin in part because of his early support for ethanol. Iowa should never be a foregone conclusion in an election but there we are. Almost all Republican primary candidates (except as you correctly point out Cruz) were in favor of ethanol so there wasnt one target to come together around. There is a reason Trump keeps going to the ethanol well. We Dems need to get back to talking about how we improve the economy for the midwest better than the Republi-cant’s. Ethanol is a YUGE part of that. Whether you support the merrits of the fuel or not, we need Dems to get behind the politics of ethanol if we want a better chance to take midwest back congressional seats and electoral votes someday. (Text wall endeth 🙂

  • Come on Rusty, most of the negative talk comes from folks like you that just have a passion to oppose ethanol.

    The issue here with E15 not being allowed into the market for just summer months is illogical and actually ignores science. If there is any optimal time to sell E15 (Mid-Grade) 89 AKI, it is during the summer when we have higher ambient temps. Cars love octane as ambient temperatures increase.

    If simply adding ethanol to E10 which is currently the norm for blending E15, and I hope it stays that way, E15 will lower tailpipe emissions to include toxics from aromatics and we will have lower evaporative emissions.

    Most cars today have multiple octane tables in the vehicle’s computer so E15 (Mid-Grade) will also offer equal miles per gallon as E10 yet consumers are paying a few cents less than regular.

    What’s wrong with the picture here? It seems some politicians think we are dealing with new fuel sales and forget we are just replacing E10 sales and reducing emissions at the same time. Just let consumers decide. I think that is exactly what Ted Cruz wanted to do, first get rid of regulations that run against the science and open the market up to give ethanol equal access.

  • EPW: Vote Yes! For the Consumer and Fuel Retailer Choice Act. Supporting biofuels and specifically ethanol is vital to Iowa’s economy and our nation not to mention good for our environment instead of burning carbon polluting fossil fuels. The bill S.517 is over due to be passed for consumer choice at the pump. We must not let up or relent to the negative impact the oil industry and oil magnets are pursuing.
    The RVP regulation is outdated and is restricting retailers of their sales of E15. With summer travel season here let us not deny the consumer a choice at the pump, let us provide a livelihood for the employee at the fuel station, and let us reduce harmful emissions in the air we breathe by buying and burning ethanol in addition to contributing to the GDP.

  • And remember. If you don’t support ethanol. We will Stock your campaign. Harass and bully you just like Ted Cruz

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