As new ethanol and biodiesel plants spring up, the transportation industry is scrambling to fill biofuel's distribution demands.
Biofuel plants require transportation of both input and output. The transportation system must support a supply of raw materials into plants as well as a flow of fuel out of the plants. To ease shipping costs of raw materials, the bulk of ethanol and biodiesel plants are situated in the Midwest, but demand for biofuels is growing in other parts of the country as well.
"There is a challenge and there will be a challenge as both of these products begin to get more use outside of the middle section of the country," says president of the Iowa Motor Truck Association Scott Weiser. "Several members of our congressional delegation have indicated there needs to be a focus on those issues of infrastructure and transportation if and when we are going to serve the rest of the nation."
Currently, railroads move about 75% of U.S. ethanol each year, with the other 25% going by truck, according to the Renewable Fuels Association.
Iowa Soybean Association spokesman Grant Kimberley says the nation's rail system will need to improve to adequately take on an increasing role in biofuel transportation.
"It already is a challenge with just transporting the normal products the railroads transport," he says. "We'll have to be moving more and more renewable fuels that way unless we figure out ways to send this stuff through petroleum pipelines."