Biden unveiled his ethanol plan in Iowa. Here's what we learned during president's visit to Menlo

·4 min read

President Joe Biden was in Iowa on Tuesday to discuss his economic agenda and announce lifting restrictions on E15 gasoline sales to help ease fuel prices.

After a delay, Biden arrived at Des Moines International Airport on Tuesday afternoon. From there, the president traveled to Menlo, a town of fewer than 400 people about 50 miles west of Des Moines.

At a Poet ethanol plant in Menlo, Biden addressed a small crowd of Iowa’s biofuel and political leaders.

Here's what else we learned during Biden's trip to Menlo.

More: President Joe Biden in Iowa OKs more ethanol use to cut gas prices, pitches plan to improve rural America

What did Biden say about ethanol?

The president formally announced that he will direct the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to use an emergency waiver to allow sale of gasoline with 15% ethanol, called E15, to help boost fuel supplies over the summer. It isn’t intended to be a permanent fix.

"This industry has a role to play in a sustainable energy future," Biden said. "But I’m here because homegrown biofuels have a role to play right now — right now as we work to get prices under control and reduce the cost for families."

More: The internet says a bird pooped on Joe Biden in Iowa. Here's what really happened.

E15 is currently banned in some states from June 1 to Sept. 15 because is believed to contribute to smog during warmer weather. Supporters of ethanol say that is unfounded.

More: Here's what to know about E15 and why it matters so much in Iowa

What did Biden say about Putin and Ukraine?

Biden's ethanol announcement came as consumer gas prices reached record highs — a situation Biden has blamed on Russia’s war with Ukraine, but which Republicans have attributed to Biden’s energy policies.

"I’m doing everything within my power by executive order to bring down prices and address the Putin price hike," he said. "... Your family budget, your ability to fill up your tank — none of it should hinge on whether a dictator declares war and commits genocide half a world away.”

Before heading back to the White House from Iowa, Biden told reporters Tuesday that he intentionally said "genocide” when describing Russia’s atrocities against Ukraine.

“It’s become clearer and clearer that Putin is trying to wipe out the idea of being Ukrainian,” Biden said.

What did Republicans say about Biden's visit?

Republican Party of Iowa chairperson Jeff Kaufmann and U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst said on a call with reporters Tuesday that the announcement is a good thing for Iowa consumers. But they said Biden should have made the change earlier, and they criticized him more widely for his handling of inflation across the country.

Ernst told reporters Tuesday that she would like to see the move to year-round E-15 become permanent and wants to see more support for biofuels in general.

Republican U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley applauded Biden's announcement in a statement Tuesday.

“I’m glad President Biden is finally listening to what Senator Ernst and I have been saying for months," he said.

More: As President Joe Biden visits Iowa, here's what to know about E15

What to know about Menlo, Iowa?

Menlo is located in Guthrie County. According to the 2020 U.S. census, 345 people live in Menlo, down eight since the 2010 census. Menlo has become more diverse since the 2010 census, but still about 92% of the population was white in the latest census. In 2010, the percentage of the population was 97.2% white.

Menlo is among 10 incorporated communities in Guthrie County. The others are Adair, Bagley, Bayard, Casey, Guthrie Center, Jamaica, Panora, Stuart and Yale. The county's total population was down slightly since 2010. In 2020, there were 10,623 people living in the county, down 3%. Just over 94% of the county was white in 2020.

The southern border of the county runs along Interstate Highway 80. Menlo is among the communities that are located near I-80. It is about 50 miles west of Des Moines.

A handful of businesses are located in Menlo, including Menlo Cafe and Rolling Hills Bank & Trust. The Poet ethanol plant where Biden spoke at Tuesday is located near Menlo.

Is Joe Biden popular in Iowa?

Iowa has never been kind to Biden. Biden was a distant fourth in the 2020 Democratic Iowa caucus, which he called a "gut punch." He later lost the state to President Donald Trump.

More: Nearly 60% of Iowans disapprove of President Joe Biden's job performance

And in recent polling, his popularity has slid. Just 35% of Iowa adults approve of Biden’s performance, with 59% disapproving and 6% unsure, according to the March 2022 Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll.

Register staff reports and USA TODAY contributed to this report.

This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Biden in Iowa: President talked ethanol, Putin, Ukraine in Menlo visit

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