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COMMENTARY: Don't Let Big Oil Bully Biofuels

Monday, Jul, 21 2014

By U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley and Amy Klobuchar

It’s vacation season across America.  That means family road trips are underway and the traveling public is paying even closer attention when they pull up to the pump.  America’s road warriors have long cherished affordable gas prices.  Today’s drivers also value clean-burning fuel choices that help the environment and boost America’s energy independence.

Look back four decades through the rearview mirror.  History shows how the 1973 oil embargo exposed the economic risks and geopolitical vulnerabilities associated with perilous dependence on foreign oil.  While gas shortages roiled consumers, the embargo gripped the U.S. economy and foreign policy with steep consequences. Since then, policymakers have worked to bring greater stability to U.S. energy security, such as creation of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and more domestic production, conservation (fuel economy standards) and diversification, including incentives for homegrown, clean-burning, renewable biofuels.

Most recently, Congress created the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) in 2005 to promote the development and use of domestic renewable biofuels.  We also supported the expansion in 2007 to bring 36 billion gallon of renewable fuels online annually by 2022.  The federal law has helped to displace oil imports, increase domestic energy security, create jobs in rural America, curb pollution with cleaner-burning fuel and lower prices at the pump for consumers. Pure and simple, the RFS is good for America’s energy, environmental and economic stability.  In recent years, Congress also has enacted provisions to promote the installation of blender pumps at gas stations nationwide, providing consumers with a greater choice of fuels.

And yet, the nation’s energy policy is running into some bumps in the road. For starters, the EPA last fall pitched a misguided proposal to greatly reduce the RFS for fiscal 2014.  The proposed rule would lower the volume targets for advanced biofuels from 3.25 billion gallons to 2.2 billion gallons.  This proposal is causing uncertainty that may scare off future investments in this promising, innovative industry.

Biofuels also are facing stiff resistance from big oil. This time, it’s not OPEC putting a stranglehold on the marketplace, it is instead the powerful oil industry that reports show is blocking the pipeline for biofuels to get to market.

Last fall, we asked the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate possible anticompetitive practices by the oil industry.  We shared concerns we heard that oil companies allegedly are mandating retailers to carry and sell premium gasoline, which as a result prevents the use of the retailer from selling renewable fuels without installing expensive infrastructure upgrades. By forcing a franchisee to carry premium gasoline as a condition of carrying regular gas, the oil company may be using its economic power to leverage unreasonable, discriminatory arrangements that are in violation of federal laws. The Department of Justice and FTC responded with assurances that they are taking steps to identify, prevent and prosecute practices in the petroleum markets that violate anticompetitive or fraudulent business practices.

It’s a long standing tactic for these big international oil companies. On the one hand, big oil argues that the RFS is broken because the industry says it can’t mix the higher blends. On the other hand, those same companies appear to be doing everything they can to prevent any widespread investment in infrastructure by their franchisees and smaller stations who are buying and selling their gasoline.

Big oil companies can cry crocodile tears, but it’s their self-inflicted actions that are standing in the way of meeting the requirements of the Renewable Fuel Standard, not ethanol producers.  Big oil can’t argue it should be repealed because it doesn’t work when it is the ones responsible for ensuring that consumers don’t have the choice for higher ethanol blends.

That’s why we kindly suggest the decision-makers at the Justice Department and FTC take a close look at a recent investigative study conducted by the Renewable Fuels Association. Its fact-finding analysis shows how oil companies appear to be blocking the sale of greater volumes of renewable fuels through bullying business tactics.  Big oil likes to say it has no control over what’s offered at the pumps of retail gas stations and franchisees.  But the facts say otherwise.

The report’s “Consumer Choice Report Card” shows less than one percent of branded stations offer E15 or E85.  Specifically, of nearly 48,000 retail gas stations carrying a “Big Five” oil company brand, less than 300 offer E85 or E15.  That flunks any reasonable standard of fairness in the marketplace.  The report flushes out fuel supply contracts, franchise agreements and other documents that show how big oil flexes its authority to undermine the sale of E85 and E15 renewables.

Tellingly, according to the report, independent stations are four to six times more likely to offer E85 and 40 times more likely to offer E15 than stations selling a “Big Five” oil brand.  It would be foolish to view these findings as a fluke.  Facts are hard to fabricate.

America has mapped out a long-term strategy to pump up competition in the transportation fuels sector, secure innovative cleaner renewable fuels to protect the environment and boost more domestic oil production to help immunize the economy and consumers from dependency on foreign oil.

Let’s not let big oil spoil the route to greater, cleaner energy independence. U.S. energy security is not for sale.  It’s time to hand over the keys to consumers and let renewables and traditional fossil fuels compete side-by-side at the pump.

posted by: Dennis Lowe 1 month ago Comment On This Post

Commentary: U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley

Saturday, May, 24 2014

I’m blessed to be spending part of my holiday weekend with my family and I hope many Iowans are able to do the same.

But no matter what we’re all doing, each of us is exercising the freedoms that generations of America’s veterans have fought to provide us.

I know all Iowans will join me in remembering those heroes who have given their lives in the past year—and all veterans who have served throughout America’s history.

posted by: Dennis Lowe 2 month(s) ago Comment On This Post

Commentary: Iowa Senator Bill Dotzler

Friday, May, 23 2014

May 26 is Memorial Day — the day our nation remembers the men and women who died while serving in the Armed Forces.  Our service members make big sacrifices for us. In return, we must honor our responsibilities to them.

In the Legislature, Republicans and Democrats have worked together to make Iowa a national leader in state support for veterans, service members and their families.  Our efforts have helped Iowa become one of the first All-Star Vet States, an initiative that highlights opportunities, services and support that states offer to attract military families.  In particular, All-Star Vet States are dedicated to employing our veterans.  In recent months, Iowa businesses have committed to hiring 2,900 veterans and that number is growing.

Part of what earned us the All-Star Vets designation is our state's Home Base Iowa effort, which helps veterans find jobs, explore career paths and make a smooth transition to civilian life in Iowa.  Home Base Iowa is also a hub for employers and communities that want to do more to attract military families.  Companies are becoming Home Base Iowa Businesses by pledging jobs specifically for veterans, and Iowa towns are offering incentives to welcome veterans to Home Base Iowa Communities.

Iowa is also expanding educational opportunities for military families by offering in-state tuition at our community colleges and state universities.  In addition, a work group is expected to make recommendations on a more consistent approach for awarding credit to veterans for their military training and experience, on strategies to recruit veterans to our colleges and universities, and on promoting the educational benefits provided to veterans.

This Memorial Day, as we say "thank you," we can be proud of the many innovative things Iowa is doing to ensure our state is the best place for veterans to live, learn and work.

posted by: Dennis Lowe 3 month(s) ago Comment On This Post

Congratulations Toby Olson!

Tuesday, May, 20 2014

KXEL congratulates Toby Olson of Waterloo for winning the grand prize of the Meyers Nursery Dream Yard!

On Monday, May 19th, Toby's name was drawn among the qualifiers who had a chance at winning a $1,500 gift certificate from Meyers Nursery in Waterloo.

Hey, Toby!  Send before and after pictures because we'd love to see what $1,500 can buy as you create your dream yard!

Congratulations, Toby!  Thanks to all to call in or signed up at Meyers Nursery!  And thank you for listening to News/Talk 1540 KXEL!

posted by: Dennis Lowe 3 month(s) ago Comment On This Post

Help Wanted

Monday, May, 5 2014

Would you like to learn more about the radio broadcasting industry?  Do you have an interest in sports?  If yes – we may have an opportunity for you!

Woodward Radio Group, located in downtown Waterloo, is in search of a board operator to work live play-by-play sporting events on KWLO and KXEL.  Sporting events that are broadcast on our stations include the Waterloo Bucks and University of Northern Iowa football, men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball.  KXEL also airs a weekly coaches call-in show for football and men’s basketball.  This part-time position and the hours and days of work will vary depending on need.  To be considered you must have good voice quality, be dependable, able to work unsupervised, and have an interest in learning more about radio.  Prior experience is not necessary.  We will train the right candidate.  A high school diploma/GED is required.

Also, KXEL is looking for a part-time announcer for the news department.  This person would anchor the morning newscasts on the KXEL Morning Show.  Qualified applicants will have at least one-year of on-air experience, a high school diploma/GED, good voice quality, solid writing skills and the skills to properly execute broadcast equipment.  The most qualified candidates will be contacted at a later time for MP3 air checks.

KWLO-AM and KXEL-AM are operated as two of four radio stations in Waterloo/Cedar Falls, Iowa by employee-owned Woodward Communications, Inc.  Woodward Communications is an equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate in the hiring, training or promotion of employees by reason of race, color, religion, sex or national origin.  We are engaged in a continuing effort to seek our prospective applicants for employment with our company.

For consideration, apply online at

posted by: Dennis Lowe 3 month(s) ago Comment On This Post

By U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley and Amy Klobuchar It’s vacation season across America.  That means family road trips are underway…
posted by Dennis Lowe 1 month ago
I’m blessed to be spending part of my holiday weekend with my family and I hope many Iowans are able…
posted by Dennis Lowe 2 month(s) ago
May 26 is Memorial Day — the day our nation remembers the men and women who died while serving in…
posted by Dennis Lowe 3 month(s) ago