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Published May 09, 2009, 12:00 AM

THEIR OPINION: Minnesota leads way on bioenergy

Minnesota government leaders and Gov. Tim Pawlenty can take pride in moving Minnesota forward with a strategic energy policy that is leading the country.

By: The Free Press, Mankato, Minn.,

MANKATO, Minn. — Minnesota government leaders and Gov. Tim Pawlenty can take pride in moving Minnesota forward with a strategic energy policy that is leading the country.

On May 1, Minnesota became one of the first, if not the first, state to require its diesel fuel be blended with 5 percent biodiesel, up from the 2 percent level of the past few years. It is part of a plan established by Pawlenty and approved overwhelmingly by both parties in the Legislature. The plan makes Minnesota the first state in the nation to require B20, or 20 percent biodiesel by the year 2015.

Vehicles have been running on the 2 percent biodiesel since 2005 with little or no trouble. The product is made mainly from home-grown soybeans, but recently, more and more farmers are looking at producing biodiesel from other feedstocks, such as animal fats, spent cooking oil and algae, according to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.

This progress should not be underestimated, and these programs should be pushed even more as we grow increasingly aware of our dependence on foreign and limited domestic petroleum.

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture reports that usage of B5 biodiesel will prevent 139 tons per year of particulate pollution and stop 330,000 tons of greenhouse gases from entering Minnesota’s environment. That amounts to taking 55,000 cars off the road. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency study shows that carbon monoxide emissions from biodiesel are about 48 percent lower than emissions from regular diesel fuel.

Increasing the biodiesel requirement from 2 percent to 5 percent will increase demand for the fuel by 40 million gallons per year. Minnesota plants have the capacity to produce 60 million gallons per year, so the industry in Minnesota alone should be able to meet the increased demand.

Minnesota has been a leader in clean fuels since 2005. An EPA report lauds Minnesota as a leader in alternative fuel production, noting the state’s many ethanol plants and its establishment of some 100 fueling stations that sell E85, a cleaner burning gasoline with 85 percent ethanol.

In April, Minnesota set up a one-stop shop for energy information in Minnesota. The Office of Energy Security set up the special site to provide everything from tips on how to use energy efficiently and conserve energy to utility information. It offers information on energy assistance to energy project incentives and rebates. This impressive site can be accessed at www.energy.mn.gov.

Energy security and independence are goals all Minnesotans can embrace. Now, the state and its leaders have given ordinary citizens tools to achieve and act on those goals. It’s up to us to make energy independence happen.

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