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Mandate Puts Minnesota on the Biofuel “Fast Track”

May 15, 2008

Minneapolis, MN - New energy legislation is putting Minnesota in the national spotlight. It would require a higher percentage of the diesel fuel sold in the state to be made from biodiesel sources. Jim Kleinschmit, senior associate at the Minnesota-based Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, says it makes Minnesota a model in the move toward alternative fuel use.

"It will be the highest level of required biodiesel sales in the country. We will move to five percent in May of 2009. By 2015, we will have a mandate of up to 20 percent."

Current state law requires only a two percent blend of biodiesel in fuel. Kleinschmit explains that turning to biodiesel, wmade from such sources as waste oils, helps the state avoid most of the debate about using food crops for fuel. The new law also has "off-ramps," he says, in case there are problems reaching the production goal. It's a feature that helped ease critics' concerns and get the higher standards approved by lawmakers, for economic reasons as well as environmental benefits.

"For the agricultural economy, it provides a dedicated market access for a value-added product that farmers and farmer-owned facilities are now producing. For the public, biodiesel has environmental benefits in actual use - there are fewer emissions, which should contribute to better air quality throughout Minnesota."

Consumers have shown a preference for locally-produced energy, adds Kleinschmit, and the law would reduce our dependency on imported petroleum products. He believes it is a major step in using local resources in a practical way for energy.

"Minnesota continues pushing forward in building a biofuel economy, and we're doing it in a thoughtful way. We're trying to make sure that this policy benefits our farmers and doesn't harm the environmental quality of Minnesota. There are some environmental and local restrictions, but we are expanding the biofuel content of our energy."

The Institute's Web site contains information on biofuels' impact, even on those who don't drive diesel-powered vehicles, at www.iatp.org.

Jim Wishner/Don Mathisen, Public News Service - MN