Kelly Niewenhuis made the three-hour drive from his O’Brien County farm to Menlo for a good reason Tuesday: The White House invited him.
Niewenhuis is president of the Iowa Corn Promotion Board, a board member for the Siouxland Cooperative Energy ethanol plant near Sioux Center, and an unabashed supporter of renewable fuels, the reason President Joe Biden came to Iowa.
Biden’s visit allowed him to formally announce a plan to revoke the summertime ban on E15, a higher blend of ethanol not available year-round.
“I don’t think it’s much of an announcement, it’s already broken out in the last 24 hours,” Biden quipped.
Niewenhuis and other ethanol advocates were given a front-row seat to the event, which was held at a rural Iowa ethanol plant 45 minutes west of Des Moines.
“We’ve been trying to get this back into motion and now a combination of the high fuel prices, the Russia/Ukraine crisis with fuel issues, this is perfect timing to get year-round E15 sales back on track to fill that void, and for energy independence,” Niewenhuis said.
Biden would later echo those sentiments during a 20-minute or so speech.
The longtime Northwest Iowa crop farmer wasn’t the only one pleased by Biden’s announcement.
Monte Shaw, president of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, also welcomed the news and thanked Biden for his support. However, he noted more needed to be done.
“What President Biden’s doing today on an emergency basis will get us through 2022 and that’s step one—and it’s a very vital step one—long term, we need a permanent fix,” Shaw said.
Emily Skor, CEO of Growth Energy, a leading biofuels trade organization, seconded that notion. Skor also said this move should provide immediate relief to motorists.
“Just driving here today, I filled up and I saved 30 cents [per gallon] when I put E15 in versus E10,” she said. “That’s a meaningful savings at this point in time when every drive is feeling pain at the pump.”
POET Biorefinery is the world’s largest biofuel producer and its Menlo plant hosted the gathering.
“It’s not every day that you get a president in your plant,” said Doug Beveren, POET vice president of corporate affairs.
by Ty Rushing