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Increasing biodiesel blend

Published (3/28/2008)
By Lee Ann Schutz
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Viewed as another step along the state’s road to increased biofuel production and use, the current mandate regulating biodiesel could increase.

Sponsored by Rep. Al Juhnke (DFL-Willmar), HF2987 would increase the biodiesel mandate incrementally from the current 2 percent blend to 20 percent by 2015.

“This is a big step continuing the history of renewable fuels. Minnesota has become sort of the model not only for other states, but for other countries,” said Agriculture Commissioner Gene Hugoson.

The bill was approved by the House Agriculture, Rural Economies and Veterans Affairs Finance Division March 25, and awaits action by the House Finance Committee. Its provisions are also included in the division’s omnibus bill.

The blend increase would move to 5 percent beginning May 1, 2009, and 5 percent each of the next two years to cap at 20 percent by May 1, 2015. Once the new blend requirement is reached, it would be effective May through September only, with the minimum content for the remainder of the year set at 15 percent.

The bill also calls for all revenue from the petroleum inspection fee, administered through the Department of Commerce, to be used to enhance and ensure fuel quality, equipment and for educational activities focused on the use of biodiesel.

The state’s biodiesel 2 percent mandate, enacted in 2002, required it not to be effective until Minnesota could meet half of the state’s biodiesel needs. That occurred in the late summer of 2005. This requirement remains part of the new bill.

Juhnke said the requirements will give people “confidence in the product, that there will be a supply, that it will work, that it is a superior product. We think it adds a sense of stability and maybe even superiority. It’s almost like a branding,” he said.

With oil prices topping $100 a barrel, Hugoson said that increasing the use of biofuels has become a national security issue. He also stressed the importance of moving of away from food crops as a source for biofuels.

A companion bill, SF2724, sponsored by Sen. Jim Vickerman (DFL-Tracy), awaits action by the Senate Finance Committee.

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