Kelly Niewenhuis made the three-hour drive from her O’Brien County farm to Menlo for good reason on Tuesday: The White House invited her.
Niewenhuis is chairman of the Iowa Corn Promotion Board, a board member of the Siouxland Cooperative Energy ethanol plant near Sioux Center, and an unabashed supporter of renewable fuels, which is why President Joe Biden came to Iowa.
Biden’s visit allowed him to officially announce a plan to revoke the summer ban on E15, a higher blend of ethanol not available year-round.
“I don’t think this is really an announcement, it’s already popped in the last 24 hours,” Biden joked.
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 that back up and running and now a combination of high fuel prices, the Russian-Ukrainian crisis with fuel issues, it’s the perfect time to get E15 sales back through the year on track to fill this void, and for energy independence,” said Niewenhuis.
Biden would later echo those sentiments during a roughly 20-minute speech.
The longtime northwest Iowa farmer wasn’t the only one pleased with 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 that more needed to be done.
“What President Biden is doing today on an emergency basis will get us through 2022 and that’s the first step – and it’s a very vital step – in the long run, we need a permanent solution,” said Shaw.
Emily Skor, CEO of Growth Energy, a major biofuels trade organization, supported the idea. Skor also said the move should bring immediate relief to motorists.
“Just driving here today I filled up and saved 30 cents [per gallon] when I put E15 against E10,” she said. “That’s a significant saving at this point where every reader is feeling pain at the pump.”
POET Biorefinery is the world’s largest producer of biofuels and its Menlo plant hosted the gathering.
“It’s not every day you have a president in your plant,” said Doug Beveren, POET’s vice president of corporate affairs.
by Ty Rushing