By Tim Rudnicki, Esq.
Think, for a moment, how you started your day. You probably flipped a light switch on, heated some breakfast, rode a bus or drove to your destination. Seldom do we have time to consider the energy sources used to brighten our homes or workplaces, cook meals and power a bus or other vehicles. Yet the type of energy we use, and where that energy comes from, has profound implications for our quality of life today and well into the future.
Energy used to power vehicles, for example, gives us great mobility and ease by which to move products that we use in our homes and workplaces. According to the Energy Information Administration, 28% of all the energy consumed in the United States is used for transportation. At present, 93% of the total energy used for transportation is provided by petroleum.
Where does all the petroleum come from? Anyone who watched the 2010 news coverage about the Deepwater Horizon and the estimated 210 million gallons of oil that gushed from the Macondo well into the Gulf of Mexico knows at least one source for petroleum. Unfortunately, three years later, despite the petroleum industry smoke screens, researchers now report the damage to portions of the Gulf is so severe that it could take decades or longer for the sea bottom’s rich biodiversity to recover.
But to maintain our quality of life, to be able to drive our vehicles and power our buses, we need more petroleum, so we must drill even deeper in the Gulf and in other parts of the globe, correct? While the petroleum industry would like for us to still think oil is the only energy available to help us maintain our quality of life, the fact is we do have very cost competitive alternatives to petroleum fuel. Clean, renewable fuel options are right here, right now.
Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton makes the connection between our quality of life and renewable fuels as he has proclaimed October 2013 to be “Biofuels Month.” Governor Dayton’s proclamation states, in part, “Biofuels improve the quality of life for Minnesotans by stimulating the economy, providing homegrown energy, reducing pollution, and giving consumers more fuel choices.”
The Governor’s proclamation, in essence, recognizes the Minnesota biofuels industry injects more than $5 billion dollars annually into the economy. But the biofuel industry is about much more, as the proclamation suggests, than the economy. Minnesota farmers, for example, provide the renewable ingredients used to make biofuels for all of us. Further, biofuels, such as ethanol and biodiesel, are clean energy sources that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Governor Dayton’s proclamation clearly reminds us about the alternatives to petroleum. With 63 million gallons of renewable biodiesel produced in Minnesota and with regular gasoline soon to include 15% renewable ethanol (5% more than is in regular gasoline today), Minnesota is once again positioned to be a leading renewable biofuel State.
Very soon, thanks to requests by consumers, some retailers in the Twin Cities will give us more choice at the pump as they offer E15 (the “new regular” gasoline, comprised of 85% gasoline and 15% ethanol, for use in 2001 and newer vehicles). As more customers have access to E15, biodiesel and higher blends of ethanol for their Flex Fuel Vehicles, we can further reduce the use of petroleum and vastly improve our quality of life and environment for generations to come.