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Could Pipelines Move Ethanol From Iowa to Major Markets?

Iowa Congressman introduces legislation to increase access to alternative fuels across the country. By Brian Sexton

Iowa Congressmen Leonard Boswell has introduced bipartisan legislation to increase the availability of alternative fuels at gasoline stations across the country. The legislation calls for funding a study to find out whether underground pipelines would be a good way to transport ethanol and biodiesel.

Boswell, a Democrat who represents central Iowa, explained the legislation at a press conference May 29 at Magellan Pipeline Company in Pleasant Hill, on the southeast side of Des Moines.

Joining Boswell and speaking at the press conference were Jamie Cashman, with Iowa Governor Chet Culver's office, Monte Shaw with the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association and Bruce Heine, director of government and media affairs for Magellan Midstream Partners. Also, Jim Meyer, a farmer from Odebolt, spoke on behalf of the Iowa Corn Growers Association.

Is this a pipedream or is it practical?

The Ethanol Infrastructure Expansion Act, H.R. 2426, would direct the U.S. Secretary of Energy to fund studies on the feasibility of constructing a dedicated ethanol pipeline and to study the technical factors that prevent the transportation of ethanol in existing pipelines.

"As the ethanol and biodiesel industries continue to expand, we need to examine practical and economical ways to transport ethanol across the country," says Boswell. "This bill is a necessary first step in bringing ethanol to the rest of the country. We need to break our bondage to OPEC and if we are going to produce more biofuel to do that, we need to get that ethanol and biodiesel to the motoring public as efficiently as possible."

This is an important bill for Congress to consider. "Ethanol and biodiesel are currently moved primarily by railcars and by truck. But the rapid growth in production of ethanol and also biodiesel production makes a study and determination of additional transportation options critical," he says.

Department of Energy to play key role

The bill, if it passes Congress and becomes law, will direct the U.S. Department of Energy to conduct an ethanol pipeline feasibility study to analyze the technological, economic, regulatory and financial issues in transporting ethanol via dedicated ethanol pipelines. This legislation will also direct the energy department to research the technical factors that prevent transportation of ethanol and bio-diesel in existing pipelines. The Secretary of Energy would have to coordinate with the Secretary of Transportation in conducting these studies.

"With record gas prices across the country, this legislation is needed more than ever," says Boswell. "Breaking our dependence on foreign oil is a multi-piece puzzle. Wind, solar and biofuels all play a role, but in order for the pieces to fit we must ensure that the energy created by renewable fuel sources is abundant and affordable. As a member of the House Committee on Transportation, where the bill has been referred, I plan to work with my colleagues to pass this legislation."

Congressman Jerry Moran, R-Kan., is the main Republican sponsor of the bill. Senator Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, has introduced similar legislation in the Senate.

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