Minnesota Becomes First State to Endorse an Electric-Alcohol Transportation Strategy

Date: 8 Jun 2006 | posted in: Energy, Energy Self Reliant States | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

A new law puts Minnesota on the path towards reducing its reliance on oil by embracing a transportation strategy based on flexible-fueled, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs).

Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty has signed into law H.F. 3718, the nation’s first law promoting plug-in hybrid, flexible-fueled vehicles.

The legislation â€" inspired by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance’s report A Better Way that proposed an electricity-alcohol transportation energy strategy, and several articles by ILSR staff published in the Minneapolis Star Tribune in late 2005 â€" sailed through both houses by a unanimous vote.

"Both conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats understand that this is the only near term strategy available that can cure us of our oil addiction," notes David Morris, ILSR’s Vice President, who testified as an expert witness before six legislative committees.

The law instructs the state to buy plug-in hybrids on a preferred basis when they become available. It also encourages Minnesota State University-Mankato to develop flex-fuel plug-in hybrid vehicles, and creates a task force consisting of business, government and utility representatives to develop a strategy for using, and producing such vehicles in Minnesota.

A plug-in hybrid can run primarily on electricity, which inherently reduces oil consumption. "Only three percent of our electricity is generated from oil," Morris observes, "And many states are requiring an increasing percentage of renewable electricity." Renewable fuels like ethanol would provide the primary energy source for the vehicle’s engine.

"Minnesota has the resources necessary to make flexible fuel plug-in hybrid production a reality," says Frank Hornstein, the bill’s chief House author. "We have the research at Minnesota State-Mankato. We have the corn and ethanol industry. We have a growing number of wind farms. And we have the Ford plant."

"Ford has said it will close the plant. The task force can help us develop new opportunities," notes Scott Dibble, the bill’s chief Senate author. "We could have a technology developed in Minnesota and built at the Ford Plant, which already runs on renewable energy generated at the plant’s hydroelectric dam on the Mississippi river."

Note from New Rules: For those states that may want to copy the Minnesota policy initiative, we feel that an earlier version of the Minnesota legislation might be better. The primary differences is that the earlier bill contained stronger direction for the state to build up the numbers of flex-fueled vehicles that are sold in the state and it had a requirement for the state to establish a regulatory investigation into the technical and economic aspects of allowing PHEV’s to interconnect with the utility grid and supply electricity to electric utilties. The regulatory proceeding would have also required an innovative pricing scheme, providing PHEV owners a discounted rate for recharging PHEVs during off-peak hours. The original bill also contained targets for the numbers of PHEVs the state must purchase.


  • Full Text of HF 3718– enacted May 31, 2006
  • Original Flex-Fuel, Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle Legislation – introduced in Minnesota legislature, March 20, 2006.
  • New Rules Project’s section on PHEV’s andBiofuels
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John Farrell

John Farrell directs the Energy Democracy initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and he develops tools that allow communities to take charge of their energy future, and pursue the maximum economic benefits of the transition to 100% renewable power.