By Timothy J. Rudnicki, Esq
With 598 House Bills and 499 Senate Bills introduced as of January 30, a fired up legislature and four more months remaining in the 2017 Legislative Session, we have an excellent opportunity to do more advocacy on behalf of the biofuel and renewable chemical industries in Minnesota.
As usual, the Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association will work both defense and offense. Thus far, at some point in every legislative session, we have seen bills introduced which, either by accident or intent, attempt to hack away at the core of Minnesota’s biofuel and renewable chemical industries. Regardless what the attack might be, MBA is there to confront, challenge and change the offending bill.
MBA also works on the offense. For instance, this session MBA is working with key stakeholders and legislative bill champions in the Minnesota House and Senate to advance a couple of bills. One bill involves a tax credit to jump start a new technology and the other bill is aimed at giving at least 150 fuel retailers the types of resources they need so they can rapidly transition to making E15 the new unleaded regular fuel in Minnesota.
The first technology bill holds some super potential to increase efficiency of production. At issue is the need to stimulate the generation of electricity onsite with, for example, combined heat and power systems or expander generators or some combination of both. These energy technologies can enable renewable biofuel and chemical producers to use cleaner energy and further lower their carbon footprints.
With these energy efficiency technologies, carbon footprints are lowered in at least two ways. First, when a producer generates their electricity onsite, they immediately reduce the problem associated with transmitting electricity over long distances: line loss. The resistence of the transmission wires essentially “wastes” electricity, hence the term line loss, yet energy had to be used to generate that electricity. So, when renewable biofuel and chemical producers use the onsite generating technology they can cut the amount of wasted energy due to line loss.
Biofuel and renewable chemical producers can also reduce the carbon footprints of their products with the onsite generating technology because the technology uses cleaner fuel to make electricity. While the vast majority of the grid serving Minnesota is still powered with very carbon intensive fuel, the biofuel and renewable chemical producers can use much less carbon intensive fuel such as natural gas, biogas or pressure differentials.
Today’s onsite electricity generating technology is really fantastic. A combined heat and power system produces both the heat needed to process renewable biofuels and chemicals and to generate the electricity used to power, for instance, fans and pumps. The expander generators convert high pressure gases or fluids to lower pressure by taking and using the pressure (energy) to spin a generator to produce electricity. Given the tremendous environmental benefits associated with these systems, as well as the potential to jump start the use of this dormant technology, MBA is working with lawmakers to advance a bill that would provide a phased out tax credit to producers.
Another key bill is the 2017 biofuel infrastructure build out program. This bill aims to literally build upon the success of the Biofuel Infrastructure Partnership Program which was funded by the US Department of Agriculture and matched with grants from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and the ethanol industry.
Through the course of its work with fuel retailers across Minnesota, MBA has identified another set of more than 100 fuel retailers who are interested in and prepared to offer E15 and higher blends if they can get some assistance. We have identified a range of needs for the retailers including from those requiring relatively minor adjustments to their dispensers to those who could offer two or three tankers of E15 a week to their customers but for some changes that need to be made to their tanks or pipes or dispensers. The multi-million dollar bill at issue could go a long way to making E15 the new regular, boosting the Minnesota economy with homegrown biofuels and driving down GHG emissions.
When E15 is the new regular fuel, renewable ethanol will cut an additional 358,000 metric tons annually of carbon dioxide equivalent gas from the atmosphere. That’s the equivalent of taking about 75,368 passenger vehicles off Minnesota roadways. A few million dollars can get GHG emission reductions within a matter of months. It would cost several billion dollars to displace the same number of passenger vehicles with alternative technology.