What The Candidates Say : Mike McFadden

  • Friday, 17 October 2014 00:00

In the second part of our What The Candidates Say series, we bring you Mike McFadden's views on the biofuel industry. McFadden is running against Sen. Al Franken for one of Minnesota's two U.S. Senate seats.

Q. The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) is a federal law which has implications for Minnesota. Do you support or oppose the RFS? What is your basis for your support or opposition to the RFS?

A. Virtually every source of energy - from coal to hydroelectric, nuclear to wind, solar and geothermal energy - has been benefited from incentives in its early years. The guarantee of biodiesel demand over a specified period of time has reduced the risk of investing in this renewable biofuel and moved significant investment capital into the marketplace. The proposed biofuels reductions that have been issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) send signals to investors that could threaten future growth in the industry.

Renewables are an important of Minnesota's agricultural sector, with biofuels playing a critical role in the state's economy and communities of rural Minnesota. I support the existence of the RFS. The RFS has been successful at increasing the blends of renewable biofuels, thereby bringing us closer to energy independence and the generation of cleaner fuel.

The impact of government actions on our biofuels industry is of particular interest to Minnesota agriculture. For example, the growth of the biodiesel industry under the RFS has been a valuable part of our state's economy, supporting 3,726 jobs and generating $606 million in economic activity statewide. Nationwide, biodiesel production has increased from about 25 million gallons in the early 2000s to a record 1.7 billion gallons in 2013.

The EPA's draft proposal is particularly challenging for biodiesel because excess biodiesel production from record volume of 1.7 billion gallons can be carried over and used for RFS compliance in 2014. As a result, the 1.28 billion gallon proposal could mean an effective market closer to 1 billion gallons.

It is absolutely unaccetable that the EPA has yet to release the biofuel use targets for 2014. It is unacceptable that the Administration has missed the deadline for doing so for ten months and counting. Producers need certainty. But instead of giving biofuel producers the answers that they need to make production and investment decisions, the EPA has missed the deadline for announcing production targets for the last five years in a row. The impacts of this bureaucratic delay can be felt throughout the ethanol and biodiesel industries, affecting prices, demand and investment.

The EPA's delay shows how broken Washington is. Bureaucrats in Washington do not understand how dragged out timelines and unpredictable requirements affect Minnesota's farmers and their ability to add value to the products they produce. We must mend the broken regulatory processes of federal agencies like the EPA in order for the RFS to be successful at boosting the use of renewables in our fuel.

Q. What advantages, or disadvatages, do you think biofuels present for Minnesotans? If you have identified advantages, how would you leverage them to acheive more benefits for the environment and consumers over the next two to four years? If you identified disadvantages associated with biofuels, what, if any, actions would you take to address those disadvantages?

A. Ongoing development of renewable fuels continues to be a core issue for the agriculture sector and the state of Minnesota and biofuels offer a number of advantages. Not only do biofuels contribute to energy independence and a cleaner environment, they also allow us to leverage Minnesota's robust agricultural sector for cleaner energy. Minnesota is thus well-positioned to grow from and thrive on increased use of biofuels. This brings production and jobs here to Minnesota, and contributes to domestic fuel production.

We have the opportunity to be energy independent in this country for the first time since the 1960s, and I strongly support a portfolio of energy production that further that aim. Biofuels have a critically important role to play in promoting energy independence while simultaneously contributing to fuel with lower carbon emissions. Biofuels' current disadvantages are really opportunities for growth - namely infrastructure needs and distribution bottlenecks, as well as the adoption and utilization of higher blends.

3. What actions would you take, for the medium term, to make E15 the new regular fuel?

A. Many producers are determining that there is profitability in producing E15 fuel. This is an important market. First, I would work to ensure that E15 is subject to fair and competitive market conditions. Oil companies should not be able to illegally restrict the sale of higher blends. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) should investigate any anti-competitive practices such as the isolation of higher blends where consumers cannot find them or adding falsely intimidating labelling on ethanol blends at the pump.

Second, higher blends of ethanol such as E15 could become even more viable with lower production costs. The distribution bottlenecks for agricultural products created by railcar shortages drive up the costs of delivering products to market. Last year's propane shortage not only drove up costs for corn growers, but also worsened the railcar shortgages. These problems can be addressed through a more robust energy infrastructure. I support the construction of pipelines to ensure that propane can be delivered cheaply and readily, to take the pressure off of railcars now carrying crude or propane, and to bring lower cost electricity to biofuel producers.

4. Is there anything else you would like to tell us about your position on biofuels in Minnesota?

A. I am a strong supporter of Minnesota biofuels. I will fight for more timely and predictable federal regulation, as well as the continuation of policies which support renewables nationally and in Minnesota. Minnesota's producers deserve a Senator who will cut through partisan gridlock in Washington to fight for them and address the challenges facing our great state.

Visit Blogging For Biofuels next week to see what Rep. Collin Peterson as well as Sharon Sund and Joe Perske (who are running for the federal house seats in District 3 and 4 respectively) say about biofuels.