OTTUMWA — New legislation means fuel distributors can blend biofuels locally, reducing costs for the consumer as well as giving them options at the pump.
House File 640 passed both the state House and Senate this session by large majorities, though southeast Iowa legislators were not unanimous in their vote.
State Reps. Mary Gaskill, D-Ottumwa, Curt Hanson, D-Fairfield, and Jarad Klein, R-Keota, voted for its passage, as did state Sens. Mark Chelgren, R-Ottumwa, Sandy Greiner, R-Keota, and Ken Rozenboom, R-Oskaloosa.
State Reps. Larry Sheets, R-Moulton, and Guy Vander Linden, R-Oskaloosa, voted against the bill.
The idea behind the bill is to allow local fuel dealers to "splash blend" — mix ethanol with regular gasoline — at their facilities in order to provide customers with more affordable fuel at the pump.
"Providing a retail location for consumers to come purchase fuel and being able to have a choice of what they're purchasing we feel is an advantage we can provide to our customers compared to some of our neighboring states such as Minnesota and Illinois, who have mandated certain fuel blends to be sold at the pump," said Andrew Woodard of Elliott Oil Company in Ottumwa.
Large oil companies, such as BP or ConocoPhillips, want a control on the market, said state Rep. Hanson.
"That would mean in some cases, these people would not be able to supply ethanol blend that many have come to supply because it's more affordable," he said. "That's the way big oil companies would like to have it, control everything that goes through their brand-name station. I understand how they want to do that, but it would not be in the best interest of Iowans."
Splash blending positively affects not only the fuel distributors but also consumers and farmers, Woodard said.