Campaign News

Faribault Daily News: New ethanol bill touted as good for farmers and the environment

By: Andrew Deziel

A bipartisan group of legislators have introduced a bill that would make Minnesota the first state in the nation to embrace E15, or gasoline with 15% ethanol, as the standard.

The bill was introduced Monday in the House by Rep. Jeanne Poppe, DFL-Austin, and in the Senate by Sen. Torrey Westrom, R-Elbow Lake. Poppe and Westrom serve as chair of the Agriculture Committee...

Greenhouse gas emissions from transportation have remained stubbornly high in recent years, eclipsing power generation as the state’s largest pollutant. Emissions from transportation fell by just 8% from 2005 to 2018, while emissions from electricity generation fell by 29% in the same time span.

E15 has been commonly sold at Minnesota gas stations since 2018, when the Environmental Protection Agency repealed a regulation that barred the fuel from being sold during the summer months due to concerns about smog. Although retailers were free to sell E15 during other months of the year, most didn’t, because doing so would have forced them... to go through the hassle and expense of changing their pumps and warning labels annually.

Since the repeal of that rule, the amount of E15 gasoline sold has skyrocketed, nowhere more than in Minnesota. About 350 gas stations around the state carry the product and last year Minnesota drivers pumped more than 70 million gallons of it, triple the amount three years prior.

Minnesota has traditionally been a leader in encouraging biofuel use. The state was the first in the nation... to require that fuel carry at least 10% ethanol content, and today over 98% of gasoline sold in the United States contains ethanol. Ethanol is also a rare issue that brings legislators from both sides of the aisle together in Minnesota. Last October, U.S. Rep. Jim Hagedorn, R-Blue Earth, joined colleagues from both sides of the aisle in raising concerns over the EPA’s decision to grant waivers to the renewable fuel standard.

This week, Rep. Angie Craig, DFL-Eagan, sent a letter to the Select Committee on the... Climate Crisis, urging the Committee to include biofuels as a part of its climate plan. It was signed by 11 of Craig’s colleagues, including Nebraska Republicans Jeff Fortenberry and Don Bacon.

The bill just introduced in the legislature has the strong backing of the Minnesota Corn Growers Association, which has launched its “Better Fuel Initiative” to campaign for the measure. Former Corn Growers Association President Brian Thalmann said that E15 provides a better fuel in many different respects.

Thalmann argued that replacing some petroleum with corn-based ethanol could be a healthy move for the environment....or E10, so cars running on E15 would get slightly lower fuel economy. Although the difference is slight, it does mean that E15, like E85, needs to be sold at a lower price to be cost efficient for consumers.

One group that would certainly benefit from increased ethanol use are Minnesota’s corn farmers, who are currently reeling from several years of difficult weather and low commodity prices. Minnesota is the fourth largest ethanol producing state in the nation.

Read the full story here.