Ethanol Can Meet Minnesota's Emissions Goals

  • Wednesday, 21 December 2016 08:40

A recent MPR report has highlighted Minnesota's challenges in meeting its emission goals in light of the new political balance at the capitol.

The Nov 8 election saw voters hand the legislature to Republican lawmakers and this, the report predicts, is set to create a standoff with DFL Gov. Mark Dayton on how Minnesota is to achieve the state's emissions goals. To recap, Minnesota Statute 216H.02 sets a goal of reducing the state's greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to at least 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. By 2050, GHG emissions are targeted to be 80 percent below 2005 levels.

While the subject of coal-generated electricity is expected to take center stage in the debate between Dayton's administration and the legislature, one area they should form a consensus on is ethanol's importance in reducing GHG emissions in Minnesota while simultaneously boosting the state's economy.

According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), Minnesotan drivers consumed 7.25 million barrels of ethanol in 2015. This in turn gave ethanol a 12.47 percent of the state's transportation market (the highest percentage in the nation).

A gallon of pure gasoline, the EIA says, emits 19.64 lbs of CO2 while a gallon of ethanol emits 12.73 lbs of CO2.

As such, if those barrels of ethanol consumed in Minnesota in 2015 had been pure gasoline, Minnesota's CO2 emissions in 2015 would have been higher by 955,060 metric tons.

This, according to the EPA's greenhouse equivalency calculator, is the same as putting an additional 201,741 cars on Minnesota's roads for a year.

In light of this, the pathway to meeting Minnesota's emission goals should be simple for the administration and lawmakers : increase the state's ethanol consumption.

Minnesota is currently the fourth largest producer of ethanol in the country and in 2015, the ethanol industry contributed $2.1 billion to the state's economy and supported 18,000 jobs. 

Consuming more ethanol would further boost the state's economy and reduce emissions. And this can be achieved if the administration and lawmakers focus on making E15 the new regular fuel.

With just over 50 stations offering E15, Minnesotans have consumed 4.09 million gallons of E15 as at end-October, a million gallons than the total volume sold in 2015. According to the University of Illinois' Dr Stephen Mueller, if all gasoline in Minnesota is E15, an additional 358,000 metric tons of CO2 would be removed annually. This, using the same EPA calculator, is the equivalent of removing an additional 75,622 cars from Minnesota's roads for a year.