Fuels

Flickr / TumblingRun

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plans to boost the amount of ethanol blended into the nation’s fuel supply under new rules issued Wednesday.

The EPA finalized the rules governing ethanol production, the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), for 2017, adding about 1.2 billion gallons in total renewable fuel. That’s an increase of about 6 percent year-over-year.

Dakota Access LLC

The Iowa Utilities Board will hear arguments on Thursday morning regarding an emergency motion from a group of 15 landowners who want to keep the Bakken Oil pipeline off their properties. The group's attorney Bill Hannigan contends that condemnation hearings for turning over private land to pipeline company Dakota Access LLC have been faster than what was reasonable for the landowners to anticipate. 

Dakota Access

The Iowa Utilities Board has voted 3-0 to approve an oil pipeline across the state. Dakota Access had sought permission for the pipeline, which will carry crude oil from North Dakota to Illinois.  The line will run for nearly 350 miles through 18 Iowa counties, entering the state in the northwest corner, and exiting in the southeast.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Governor Branstad says he will not intervene in the controversial Bakken Pipeline project which is under consideration by the Iowa Utilities Board.  

And he is downplaying landowners concerns.    

Dakota Access wants to crisscross the state with a pipeline to transport crude oil from North Dakota.   

Some landowners have not granted permission.    But Branstad argues the company won’t be taking their land.

U.S. Department of Agriculture

Soon across Iowa, the Midwest, and parts of the west and south, it will be more convenient for drivers to fill their tanks with ethanol-blended gasoline. The USDA is providing $100 million in matching grants to 21 states, to expand the number of pumps that can dispense gasoline with higher blends of the bio fuel.

John Pemble/IPR file photo

Iowa lawmakers pushed a hike to the state’s gas tax even further along last week. A bill to raise the state's gas tax by ten cents a gallon is on the fast track at the statehouse.   IPR's Clay Masters talks with Joyce Russell about the actions by House Speaker Kraig Paulsen (R-Hiawatha) as well as the grim possibilities of lawmakers passing a hike to the state's minimum wage.

Photo by John Pemble

Lawmakers gained ground on a method to pay for the state’s deficient roads and bridges last week. It was one of the many issues likely to be an issue this week. 

Diesel Dilemma

Dec 2, 2014

  Drivers of diesel-powered vehicles may be wondering why they aren't enjoying the same low prices as those who fill up with gasoline. 

Informational meetings begin this week  for landowners  in 18 Iowa counties.

Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media file photo

The Environmental Protection Agency said Friday that it won’t release rules for how much ethanol oil refiners have to mix in to our gasoline supply this year.

The ethanol rules, called the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), are meant to prop up the U.S. biofuels industry by creating demand for ethanol. Without the rules, both oil companies and the biofuel sector will be left in the dark as to what the demand for ethanol will be.

Don't Blame the Farmers

Oct 10, 2014

  An Iowa energy expert says farmers are often unfairly blamed when propane supplies are low and prices are high. Farmers use LP to dry their corn before it's stored to avoid spoilage. Harold Hommes with the State Department of Agriculture says  farm use is only part of the picture. He says international customers also draw down supplies, " we now export around 400 thousand barrels a day and probably will for the foreseeable future.

Less Pain for Propane

Oct 9, 2014
IPR's Pat Blank

   State agriculture and energy officials are working together in the event that there's high demand for liquid propane this harvest season. Iowa Propane Gas Association Executive Director Deb Grooms says customers were asked to top off their tanks this summer. She says farmers got the same message from Ag Secretary Bill Northey.

Wikimedia Commons

After the expiration of an 18 month moratorium, Allamakee County has adopted rules that will regulate silica sand mining in the area. 

Jim Tittle

When a silica sand mining company bought 160 acres near his mother’s home in Eastern Minnesota, Jim Tittle had lots of questions.

Rick Fredericksen / Iowa Public Radio

It could be Iowa’s next energy crop: a relative of sugar cane, that looks like bamboo. It’s about to become much more abundant in a state dominated by corn and soybeans. 

Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media file photo

Food doesn’t just come from a grocery store. Millions of farmers spend their lives producing the crops and raising the livestock that we eat and use.

So it makes sense: If you’re interested in what’s on your plate, you’re interested in what’s going on in the field.

With that in mind, here are four things you should know about today’s food system:

The new farm bill became law in February

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

Ethanol advocates made the case for preserving the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) on Tuesday in front of the Senate Agriculture Committee.

Without the RFS, advocates say, the ethanol industry will be quashed – and corn farmers and rural communities will pay the price. But many agricultural economists argue that lowering the ethanol mandate won’t be a huge blow to the rural economy.

Joe Wilkinson / Iowa DNR

In a News Buzz edition of River to River, Host Ben Kieffer talks with IPR's Clay Masters about debate over a plan to ban the sale of e-cigarettes containing nicotine to minors. 

We hear from Cedar Rapids Democratic Senator Liz Mathis about the need for emergency funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP.  She says one family found it less costly to spend a week in a hotel, rather than heat their home using propane. 

We get local reaction to a new study on the effectiveness of mammograms. 

Durrie Bouscaren / Iowa Public Radio

Low propane supplies in the Midwest have driven up the cost of the fuel used by many rural families to heat their homes and businesses—to the point where Senator Chuck Grassley has requested an investigation by the Federal Trade Commission.

Iowa Public Radio’s Durrie Bouscaren traveled to an area in Central Iowa that depends on propane, and came back with this story. 

Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

A decade ago ethanol was touted as an eco-friendly biofuel that would not only decrease U.S. dependence on foreign oil, but also boost the Midwest's economy. Today however, ethanol’s future is a matter of debate.

The Environmental Protection Agency recently proposed reducing the ethanol mandate for the nation’s fuel supply. Many Iowa and around Midwest believe a reduction to the RFS would be economically devastating. 

Daniel Hoherd

So far this year, Des Moines has reported eight home invasions; the number coming very close to the eleven home invasions reported over the course of the entire previous year (2013).

Ann Althouse / flickr

Iowans gathered for caucuses Tuesday night, not to determine who will win nominations for President, but to determine who will control the parties.  Host Ben Kieffer talks with University of Iowa Associate Professor of Political Science Tim Hagle, and Drake University Professor of Politics, Dennis Goldford about how the midterm caucus results may impact the higher profile Presidential caucuses in two years.  They also discuss Iowa's political leverage to reverse an EPA decision reducing the amount of ethanol blended into gasoline under the Renewable Fuel Standard.

Sarah McCammon / Iowa Public Radio

Researchers at the University of Iowa have received a $125,000 federal grant to study the effects of frack sand mining on air quality.

The rise in hydraulic fracturing in the US and Canada has created demand for silica sand, used in the fracking process. There’s currently just one major frack sand mine in Iowa’s Clayton County. But parts of northeast Iowa are rich in these sand deposits.

Stefanie Seskin

Nearly all gasoline sold in the U.S. contains up to 10 percent of ethanol—a corn-based liquid often added to gasoline. As a renewable fuel ethanol reduces the amount of petroleum-based gasoline on the market and many farmers receive subsidies to grow corn for the biofuel. But now the Environmental Protection Agency is considering a reduction in the required amount of ethanol for the country's gasoline supply.  Harvest Public Media's Ames-based reporter Amy Mayer and host Ben Kieffer discuss the future of ethanol in the U.S.

Dean Borg / IPR

 Iowa’s ultra-high ethonal, E-85, fuel pumps are increasingly popular. Iowa Public Radio’s Dean Borg reports.

Sarah McCammon / Iowa Public Radio

Northeast Iowa is known for the big, scenic hills that dot the Mississippi River Valley and beyond.  Many of those hills contain sandstone. They can be used in hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas.

But some residents are concerned that more sand mining would harm the area’s environment.

Iowa Public Radio’s Sarah McCammon looks at the current state of “frac” sand mining in Iowa…and the potential for more.

Sarah McCammon / Iowa Public Radio

You’ve probably heard about controversies over the environmental effects of hydraulic fracturing – the technique known as “fracking.” There’s no oil or gas fracking in Iowa…but the increasing use of the technique is affecting the state. It’s creating a market for finely-grained silica sand from northeast Iowa.

And some residents of the area are in conflict over the future of frac sand mining.

Kathleen Masterson / Harvest Public Media

Controversy over so-called “frack” sand mining is heating up in northeast Iowa. A community meeting Wednesday evening in Decorah will focus on concerns about the possibility of mining development in Winneshiek County.

Fine sand can be used in the hydraulic fracturing process known as “fracking.” The technique is used to remove natural gas and oil from deep underground. There’s not any oil or gas fracking in Iowa right now – but there is a sand mine in northeast Iowa’s Clayton County, which is shipping frack sand out of state.

Jeremy Bernfeld / Harvest Public Media

Head to your local filling station and you might see a new blend of gas at the pump. After a three-year regulatory process, the Environmental Protection Agency approved E15 – gas made with 15 percent ethanol – this summer.

Most gas we pump is already blended with ethanol, sometimes it contains as much as 10 percent, but the ethanol industry fought hard to bring E15 to the market. For ethanol backers and the farmers who feed the ethanol industry, getting drivers to pump gas with 50 percent more ethanol is a big win.

The Triple A’s average price for a gallon of regular gas this week is three dollars and ninety cents a gallon. That has a lot of people thinking about how much and where they drive. Iowa Public Radio’s Pat Blank reports, it’s also taking a bite out of some volunteer programs like Meals on Wheels.

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