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Lawmakers consider mandating E-15 at all Iowa gas stations, retailers push back saying it'll cost consumers big time

Those supporting the measure say the bill would be good for consumers since it'd provide lower-cost fuel at more gas stations around the state.

DES MOINES, Iowa — A proposed bill could impact gas prices in Iowa, but there are mixed reviews on if the change would help or hurt Iowans’ bottom lines.

Some gas stations would only be allowed to sell Premium starting in 2026

First, let’s look at the bill.

In simple terms, House File 859 would change Iowa’s ethanol and biofuel standards.

If the bill becomes law, all Iowa gas stations would have to sell E-15 fuel blends by 2026.

The legislation would provide for some exceptions to be made. 

Stations without underground storage tanks compatible to hold and dispense E-15 blends would be allowed to apply for a waiver from the state.

This would indefinitely exempt them from having to sell E-15 blends, but these retailers would only be allowed to sell fuel with octane levels of 91 or above, or Premium gasoline, by 2026.

According to lobbyist declarations, both the governor’s office and the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship have signed on supporting this legislation.

‘We're forcing them to pay higher prices'

Dan Moellers owns a dozen gas stations around central Iowa.

"The end consumer is the one that's going to suffer here,” Moellers said.

While many newer underground storage tanks are compatible to hold E-15 blends, Moellers said some of his oldest tanks can’t.

And while some can hold E-15, some don’t have compatible piping and none of them have compatible dispensing equipment.

Moellers said he’s gotten estimates showing upgrading two sites will cost him roughly $900,000.

He estimated the other stations would cost a similar amount, meaning he’d be spending millions to upgrade.

Moellers could apply to get waivers for the sites, but if he did that, the state would only let him sell Premium grade gasoline starting in 2026 under the proposed bill.

"We're taking choices away from Iowans and we're forcing them to pay higher prices,” Moellers said. “I struggle with why we would do something like that when the process that's in play right now is working."

Will ethanol blends save the liquid fuel industry?

Monte Shaw, Executive Director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, said his group is supporting this bill for several reasons.

"That's good for the farmers, it's saving consumers money, it's reducing tailpipe emissions,” Shaw said. “It's really a win, win, win."

Right now only a handful of Iowas roughly 2,400 gas stations sell E-15 fuel blends. 

Shaw said not only would this provide more affordable fuel to more Iowans, but it'd also help ensure liquid fuel remains competitive as coastal states start proposing and implementing electric vehicle mandates.

Local 5 spoke to people who both supported and opposed this bill.

Both sides agreed, ethanol and biofuels will play an important role in keeping the liquid fuel industry alive.

They also agreed ethanol and biofuels are vital to Iowa’s agriculture industry.

We'll find out in just a matter of days if this bill is going to make it through the session or if it's not going to get called.

Session typically would be adjourning on April 30, but it’s expected to run long this year. 

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