By Timothy J. Rudnicki, Esq
September has been an especially busy and constructive month for the ethanol industry in Minnesota. The US EPA’s discriminatory RVP season ended, thus making E15 available once again to all 2001 and newer vehicles. Gov. Mark Dayton joined several other Midwestern governors in calling on the EPA to end the Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) ban on E15 and declared Sept 16, 2016, Ethanol Day, in Minnesota.
Separately, we made some progress with state agencies with some tangible and meaningful action. There’s still more to be done to lower or remove artificial barriers to ethanol producers and the fuel marketplace.
Minnesota has a set of interrelated laws which are designed and intended to lower or remove some of those barriers. The petroleum displacement law, for example, calls for using at least 30 percent biofuels (excluding biodiesel) by 2025. But until these laws (words) are actualized, Minnesota will continue to be dependent on carbon intensive fossil fuels while shipping energy dollars out of Minnesota.
Here are some of the present challenges facing our industry in Minnesota and steps we have taken to give consumers greater fuel choices at the pump.
1. We tracked the 2016 Energy Security Bill which may as well have been drafted by Big Oil. While it never got out of the legislature, it is expected to resurface in 2017. In an attempt to bring this bill into alignment with existing biofuel laws in the state, we worked with the Deputy Commissioner of Division of Energy Resources to include ethanol in a fuel inventory survey and recognize the role ethanol can play in further displacing gasoline.
2. We have also identified some cumbersome regulatory barriers that prevent ethanol producers from rapidly changing out production and pollution control equipment in order to use even more efficient equipment. These regulations clearly run counter to laws aimed at strengthening and growing Minnesota’s ethanol industry. We are currently engaging the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to identify a common roster of equipment that could potentially be changed in a matter of a few days, rather than months, through an administrative amendment or some comparable time-sensitive process.
3. The Minnesota Environmental Quality Board’s (EQB) “Climate Solutions and Economic Opportunities” report will purportedly be used by state agencies to set policy directions and budgets with respect to carbon reduction plans. Unfortunately, the report contains data that is flawed at best. Despite informing the EQB on these deficiencies, the EQB refuses to accept the science which demonstrates that ethanol’s CO2 reduction benefits augments the CO2 reduction from the use of more efficient vehicle engines.
This is perhaps one of the most egregious examples of policies that are out of alignment with the Dayton Administration and our state’s biofuel laws, goals and science. We will continue to work with the Governor to align department policies and actions with the biofuel laws.
4. The RVP ban on E15 during the summer months can be fixed by the EPA through administrative action as well as well by calling for the use of a better quality base gasoline (reformulated gasoline). In fact, we’ve discovered that there are particulate matter (PM2.5) concerns in a specific region in the state that could necessitate the use of RFG.
We are currently reviewing a variety of air quality measures to determine the PM2.5 levels in various counties and have engaged with local governments to explore the use of E15 blended with RFG to ensure their region is within compliance with air pollution laws.
5. For many years the state’s procurement contract has made E10 and E85 available to state fleet operators as well as counties and cities. E15, however, has not been included. That will change moving forward. After working with the Department of Administration for over a year, E15 will now be a fuel option for all units of government across Minnesota thereby paving the way for higher consumption of E15 in Minnesota.
The constructive actions we have undertaken are aimed at implementing Minnesota’s laws so as to facilitate the expanded use of clean, homegrown ethanol in the State. We will continue to blow the dust off those law books and turn the two dimensional words into three dimensional results and in turn, keep more energy dollars in Minnesota, boost our economy, give consumers savings at the pump and reduce the carbon emissions in the transportation sector.
It’s all about aligning and implementing those words (laws).