On May 10th, Minnesota’s Governor signed a bill into law that could result in a requirement that the state’s gasoline supplies contain 20 percent ethanol (E-20). If the rules go into effect, it would double the current 10 percent ethanol blends that are now standard throughout the state.
Under the legislation, a new E-20 mandate would take effect in 2013 unless ethanol has already replaced 20 percent of the state’s motor vehicle fuel by 2010. The rule would expire at the end of 2010 if Minnesota is not granted federal approval to use E-20 gasoline blends.
Professor Bruce Jones, Minnesota Center for Automotive Research at Minnesota State University, Mankato, reported on a study the university conducted on 15 vehicles comparing the burning of E-10 gasoline to E-30 (a higher ethanol level than proposed). No driveability or material compatible problems were experienced during the study, and all emissions were low and well below federal standards.
Minnesota has North America’s largest network of E-85 (85% ethanol blend) gas stations with approximately 130 stations now available to consumers. Minnesota was the first state to require the use of ethanol in gasoline. Other states are beginning to follow suit. Last year Hawaii enacted a measure similar to Minnesota’s mandate. The Governor of Montana signed their new E-10 requirement into law this past Friday.
The ethanol industry provides jobs for more than 5,300 Minnesotans and pumps $1.3 billion dollars into Minnesota’s economy. There are 14 ethanol plants in Minnesota that produce more than 450 million gallons of ethanol every year, with two more plants currently under construction. Minnesota ranks 4th in the nation in production of fuel-grade ethanol, after Iowa, Illinois and Nebraska. Minnesota corn growers send approximately 15% of their crop to ethanol plants.
We here at Democratic Energy are supportive of the development of a transportation fuels sector based on biofuels from renewable resources. We find the development of the ethanol industry in Minnesota particularly interesting since it is widely based on farmer-owned facilities. However, we feel that a better policy approach would have been to enact a broad renewable fuels standard rather than the more prescriptive approach of mandating ethanol. A renewable fuels standard, for example, would include ethanol, biodiesel, electricity from renewable energy sources, and even hydrogen derived from renewable resources. Certainly in the near term in Minnesota, a renewable fuels standard would still be satisfied by ethanol but there wasn’t a need to limit the scope of the new rules to ethanol alone.