Minnesota's 10% Biodiesel Mandate Starts Tuesday
Friday, June 27, 2014
Pioneer Press - Thursday, June 26, 2014
After years of starts and stops, the next frontier has finally arrived for biodiesel.
Starting Tuesday, Minnesota will require all diesel fuel sold here to contain at least 10 percent biodiesel -- except during the winter, when the requirement will be 5 percent biodiesel.
Currently, state law requires every gallon of diesel fuel to contain at least 5 percent biodiesel -- and 2 percent during the winter -- so supporters are excited to see Minnesota raise the bar to a highest-in-the-nation level.
Biodiesel is most often made from soybean oil, which Minnesota has in abundance as the nation's No. 3 soybean state. Traditional diesel fuel is made from petroleum, which Minnesota does not produce.
So the state's farmers, Gov. Mark Dayton and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture all welcome the economic and environmental benefits they see blossoming.
"From the Department of Agriculture and the governor's perspective, we thought this was a clear win for the state," said Charlie Poster, assistant commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. "It drives down the cost of fuel and increases the value of soybeans, which can put money in farmers' pockets."
But the change has its critics.
"We will be alone in the nation with a 10 percent mandate," said John Hausladen, president of the Minnesota Trucking Association. "We believe that the biodiesel industry is mature and can stand on its own. It does not need a mandate now, and it's time to phase out the mandate, not increase it."
When biodiesel made its debut in Minnesota nearly a decade ago, some of the new production plants made poor-quality fuel. That led to a spate of clogged filters, stalled trucks, angry drivers and a pair of state-ordered emergency waivers of the biodiesel law.
Today, the industry insists the quality headaches were solved long ago. But memories are long, and biodiesel still gets blamed for performance issues -- especially during winter, when the fuel can turn to gel.
Those bad memories are among the reasons Minnesota officials have repeatedly delayed the biodiesel mandate.
Originally, state lawmakers wanted all diesel fuel to contain a 10-percent blend known as B-10 by 2012. That would be followed by a move to B-20 by the year 2015.
At first, officials delayed the move to B-10 because, Poster said, "we did not have a blending terminal in the southwest part of the state." Now, one has opened.
This year, the Legislature changed the mandate again. The 10 percent blend level will drop to 5 percent on Oct. 1, not Oct. 31. And the B-20 mandate will be delayed for three additional years, until 2018.
But Hausladen, the trucking group president, thinks it's revealing that the Legislature exempted certain key industries from the mandate, including railroads, mining and logging.
"So it's a de facto admission that the Legislature doesn't think it's reliable," Hausladen argues. Given the concerns, he added, "We have members who've just decided, 'I'm going to buy my fuel outside of Minnesota.' "
State ag officials have been holding seminars around the state with the slogan, "B Ready for B-10." Officials reassure truckers and station-owners about the quality and cost of biodiesel.
And the benefits. Minnesota's three biodiesel plants can produce 63 million gallons of biodiesel each year, mostly from soybeans. That lifts the price of soybeans by an estimated 73 cents a bushel, according to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.
"And it's so much better for air quality than straight diesel," Poster said. "For every gallon of biodiesel we blend into the diesel fuel stock, it removes 1.5 gallons of carbon dioxide."