By Timothy J. Rudnicki, Esq
The November elections did shift the balance of power among Democrats and Republicans in both the Minnesota Senate as well as the US Senate and the White House. Following the elections, I’m frequently asked, what does this shift mean for ethanol and renewable chemicals?
On an academic level, the social, economic, energy security, consumer and environmental benefits that stem from biofuels are apolitical and have no party affiliation. For nearly six years the Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association has worked with Democrats and Republicans including lawmakers from the urban and suburban areas and rural communities of the state. We all found common ground and ways to grow the biofuel and renewable chemical industry to displace imported, finite petroleum-based products.
To produce what we require for mobility and products from renewable ingredients grown right here in Minnesota helps our community and improves the environment.
Doing what’s best for us is keeping billions of energy dollars in Minnesota rather than exporting those dollars to Canadian tar sands oil, Bakken crude or Middle Eastern oil producers. Doing what’s best for us is saving Minnesota drivers $240 million annually with E15. Doing what’s best for us is reducing nearly a million tons of greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector annually.
All of the above are being achieved with renewable chemicals and ethanol produced right here in Minnesota.
Here is a case where the old adage “if it works, don’t fix it” applies. As MBA has reported on the 2015 Minnesota ethanol industry data, Minnesota ethanol producers supported over 18,000 jobs, generated $7.37 billion in gross sales, generated $1.6 billion worth of income for Minnesota households and contributed $2.13 billion to Minnesota’s gross domestic product.
Given the very tangible benefits the ethanol industry provides for people in Minnesota, I would expect that lawmakers will do no harm or try to fix something that doesn’t need fixing. In other words, that means doing no harm to both the Minnesota Petroleum Displacement Law and the federal Renewable Fuel Standard.
We must, however, be ever vigilant and continue to advocate our positions. MBA will, once again, launch a major campaign to help Minnesota lawmakers and members of the Minnesota Congressional Delegation more fully understand the tangible, positive benefits the renewable ethanol industry and the growing renewable chemical industry provides all Minnesotans.
In addition to ensuring lawmakers do no harm to the existing biofuel laws, we will ask lawmakers to help build upon successes in the biofuel sphere. One way we can do this is by making a few minor regulatory adjustments to obtain even greater economic, social and environmental benefits. For instance, if E15 were given the same Reid Vapor Pressure treatment as E10, E15 could be sold throughout the year including the high mileage, busy summer driving season. Using more E15 would displace more carbon-intensive petroleum and also cut more greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector.
We will also ask lawmakers for assistance with expanding the fuel storage and dispensing infrastructure to handle more E15 and higher blends of ethanol. As of this writing, there are 62 E15 stations in Minnesota. The next phase of this infrastructure project will call for adding several hundred additional E15 dispensers, which can handle up to at least E25.
Many positive social, economic, energy security and environmental benefits have flowed from biofuel laws. And those benefits, and the success stories, are measurable and linked to real people in each US Congressional District and each Senate District in Minnesota. One would, therefore, expect lawmakers to allow society to build upon these tremendous success stories.
But, as we have seen this past election cycle, this has been a year of change. Some who question me about the implications of the election seem satisfied with the thought that change will come to Minnesota or Washington.
What does this mean? Change what? Change for whom? If this change comes, who will be benefitted and who will be burdened? Change for the sake of change seems like a rather infantile and dangerous game for people, the economy and the environment.
What if lawmakers decided the best change is to stop trying to make a political football out of biofuels and instead embrace the growing success and positive benefits of biofuels and to build upon that success to produce even more benefits? What if lawmakers demonstrate change by articulating and reinforcing a renewable energy vision which puts more Americans to work building, expanding and further modernizing ethanol plants to produce an even lower carbon biofuel?
If lawmakers want to make this election about change to serve their constituents and society as a whole, then let’s work together to find ways to make Minnesota and the nation more energy independent with homegrown biofuels. Collectively, we have tremendous potential and opportunities to match the next generation of internal combustion engines with a higher octane low-carbon fuel, expand the fueling infrastructure, put more people to work and improve the quality of our environment.
Let’s do change with a vision and a purpose. Toward that end, MBA will remain vigilant and continue to advocate for meaningful change. Happy New Year!