FILE - US Virus Outbreak Iowa

An Iowa Department of Transportation digital sign displays a message over a highway in response to the spread of COVID-19, Thursday, March 26, 2020, in Des Moines, Iowa.

(The Center Square) – Members of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association have already started to adapt to life in the age of the coronavirus crisis, executive director Monte Shaw said.

"It's more of a niche market even during this time,” Shaw told Local 5 of a move by local ethanol plants to begin producing much-needed hand sanitizer. “It’s not going to make us a lot of money, but we want to help our neighbors out.”

With the continued spread of COVID-19, Shaw said he realized lawmakers can use all the help they can get. 

As gasoline demand continues to drop with measures like social distancing still in effect, Shaw said he believes a fair amount of the up to 5 billion gallons of ethanol produced each year can be used for products like sanitizer after the FDA green-lighted such a course.

"The industry is offline," Shaw added. "That's probably as bad as it's ever been for any period of time in the last 20 years, but I think it's going to go higher as gasoline demand continues to crater. Some people are saying that it's going to go to 30% reduction in gasoline that means 30% of our production will have to come offline. That’s the size of the state of Iowa.”

Shaw said he worries nothing about the association’s numbers will change anytime soon.

"The next couple of months are going to be horrible," he said. “I’ve been doing this for 20 years and we’ve been through a couple of pretty tough times and this is going to make those times look like nothing big.”