“We’re not opposed to biodiesel,” said Brenda Neville, president of the Iowa Motor Truck Association, “but we are opposed to a biodiesel mandate.”
That’s the debate in a nutshell, according to Rep. Paul Shomshor, D-Council Bluffs, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee that likely will take up Senate File 464 this session. The bill would mandate the use of a diesel blend containing at least 5 percent biodiesel.
“Do you like mandates as much as you like biofuels?” he said.
It’s a definite “no” for Neville and Steve Lursen of Decker Truck Line in Fort Dodge, who also spoke to the committee in response to earlier testimony from backers of SF 464.
“We have members who haul biodiesel, we have members who are farmers and we have members who are biodiesel investors,” Neville said. The IMTA’s members include more than 700 trucking companies with more than 86,000 employees, she said. It is part of Iowans for Fuel Choice, a coalition of retailers, truckers, unions and utilities.
However, Monte Shaw of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association called the mandate necessary because the state requires biodiesel use “we’re frozen out of the infrastructure – the pipelines, the terminals and, to some degree, the retailers.”
Once biodiesel is mandatory, Shaw said, it will be widely available and the price disadvantage Lursen spoke of will disappear.
Lursen, who said Decker participated in the 2 Million Mile Haul, a comparison of traditional diesel and B-20, a 20 percent biodiesel blend, said any difference in price and performance is significant for an industry that measures profitability in cents per mile. There was a 2.2 percent fuel consumption advantage for trucks using traditional diesel compared to those burning biodiesel, according to the results of the 2 Million Mile Haul.
An analysis of the study found that driver-to-driver variability in fuel consumption was several times greater than difference in fuel consumption between the two fuels, Shaw said.
Despite Iowa legislators’ philosophical opposition to mandates and the merits of biodiesel, SF464 is getting boost from the support of Senate President Jack Kibbie, D-Emmetsburg.
“It doesn’t hurt that he wants it,” Shomshor said, who said it may be easier to get a majority for the bill on the House floor than in Ways and Means.
In that case, trucking industry lobbyists say they look for the mandate to show up in the all-encompassing standings bill, typically the last bill approved by the Legislature before adjourning for the year.
“This bill is alive until Sen. Kibbie is back in Emmetsburg,” IMTA lobbyist Dave Scott said.
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