Grassley: Biofuels should get infrastructure support, but his vote doesn’t depend on it

ethanol plant
A flag flies at the Southeast Iowa Renewable Energy ethanol facility prior to a visit from President Donald Trump on June 11, 2019, in Council Bluffs, Iowa. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley said Wednesday he wouldn’t vote against President Joe Biden’s infrastructure bill based solely on its lack of money for the biofuels industry. 

“I want (biofuels) included, but if it was not included, that wouldn’t necessarily determine how I vote on the bill,” Grassley told Iowa reporters.

He signed a letter with his Iowa GOP congressional colleagues Tuesday questioning Democrat Biden’s level of support for biofuels. 

“You failed to include any investments in biofuels, which play a vital role in our nation’s transportation sector,” the delegation wrote in the letter.

“According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), by 2050, 81% of new vehicle sales will still be gas-powered or flex-fuel. Just this past year, electric cars made up 2.2% of the U.S. auto market,” the Republicans wrote. 

The infrastructure bill included $174 million in subsidies for electric vehicles. Biden, and many others, have said biofuels would be an important part of what is likely to be a decades-long transition away from fossil fuels. 

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley is a Republican from New Hartford, Iowa.

Grassley is more concerned about how the federal government would pay for an infrastructure bill of the magnitude Democrats envision, he said. 

“I don’t know if the dollar amount is a key thing,” Grassley said. “How to pay for it would be a key thing.” 

Biden and congressional leaders have debated how to pay for the plan. The president and Senate leaders Chuck Schumer, D.-N.Y., and Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., all oppose increasing the gas tax while Republicans generally oppose changing the provisions of the 2017 tax cuts, Grassley said.

The bill should address basic needs such as roads, bridges and airports, in addition to possible support for biofuels, Grassley said. 

Grassley said previous administrations hoped to convert completely to electric vehicles by 2035, but Biden has pushed for 2030. That could be tough, Grassley said. 

He added that he is concerned about the close to 50,000 workers in Iowa’s biofuels industry who could lose jobs, and that corn prices could fall. Iowa is the top producer of biofuels and the grains used to make them. 

Grassley is optimistic that biofuels will be in the mix for the foreseeable future. 

“We’re turning more to alternative energy all the time, but we’re still going to need fossil fuels for a while,” he said. 

Perry Beeman
Senior reporter Perry Beeman has nearly 40 years of experience in Iowa journalism and has won national awards for environmental and business writing. He has written for The Des Moines Register and the Business Record, where he also served as managing editor. He also is former editorial director of Grinnell College. He co-authored the recently published book, "The $80 Billion Gamble," which details the lottery-rigging case of Eddie Tipton.