One source of cleaner, cheaper fuel lies at Minnesota’s doorstep, and we should be ready to open that door. Minnesota should increase its biofuel standard from 10 to 15 percent, increasing the blending in of corn and soybeans to our vehicle fuel – which would then help clean our air while boosting the price of these crops that are, of course, grown by our own farmers There are tremendous advantages to the consumer by switching to a higher ethanol fuel blend. I am an author of a bill now working its way through the legislature to make this change.
If it passes and is signed into law, this change would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 40% compared to gasoline. The United States is the number one producer of ethanol supplying 60% of the world supply. The switch can also help motorists achieves better mileage by switching from E10 to E15.
What other benefits does ethanol provide? Economic, to say the least. According to Minnesota Corn, our current biofuel industry supports almost 19,000 full-time jobs across the state, generating $1.5 billion in income – money that almost entirely stays in our communities. Also, the remaining fat and fiber leftover from ethanol production can be used as a high protein animal feed for a variety of livestock, creating as little waste as possible. Speaking of waste, using a renewable resource such as E15 will help reduce our dependence on petroleum which is a limited resource and sourced from countries outside the United States.
Biofuel is defined as any fuel that comes from biomass, which is material from plants or animal waste. Ethanol is a biodegradable fuel made from corn and, since we grow corn, it is considered a renewable resource. Biofuels are now more critical than ever, especially as we begin the necessary transition into a carbon-neutral transportation sector. While electric vehicles may eventually be the future in our state, we need to focus on what the next twenty to thirty years looks like. Reducing carbon now through common sense measures like switching to E15 is a prudent choice.
In the Minnesota Senate, we are working towards passing a bill on biofuels. Currently, SF944 is moving through, which I plan to co-author. SF 944, chief-authored by Sen. Torrey Westrom, would increase the minimum amount of biofuel content in gasoline as well as requiring fuel retailers to offer blends of ten percent biofuel. I do support this bill and am looking forward to hearing this bill in the Agriculture Finance and Policy committee this week.
On the topic of biofuels, it’s worth noting that last week Governor Tim Walz sent a letter to President Joe Biden outlining Walz’s support for biofuels on behalf of Minnesota and the bipartisan Governors’ Biofuels Coalition (which he chairs). In his letter, he showcased ways the administration could take direct executive action to remove harmful past policies enacted by the last administration that hurt the biofuel industry and corn farmers in southern Minnesota – in particular the granting of ethanol waivers to certain refineries, which undermined the efforts to promote ethanol and cost us jobs here in Southern MN.
In the Federal legislature, Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Senator Jodi Ernst’s (R-IA) have introduced a bill to create a renewable fuel infrastructure grant program and streamline underground storage tank regulations. This is important because switching to E15 requires updated infrastructure that is less likely to corrode and break, preventing leaks and environmental consequences. Replacing current infrastructure may not be an easy expense for some smaller retailers, and I am glad to see Sen Klobuchar stepping up to help.
I have argued that we need to support a strong stance on biofuels since it will bolster the price of corn and soybeans and reduce carbon emissions. Cleaner air and money that stays in our community is a win-win for Minnesotans. We have an opportunity to make Minnesota a national leader in biofuels, as we already are in agriculture. To address climate change, we should be doing whatever we can to move towards more carbon-neutral policies. It’s time for the Minnesota legislature to move this legislation forward.