A Clean Fuels Program For Minnesota

  • Wednesday, 29 January 2020 13:23

ED Column Web

Earlier this month the Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association, along with the American Coalition for Ethanol, the Renewable Fuels Association and 29 other stakeholders, lent its name to the white paper, “A Clean Fuels Policy for the Midwest.” For more than nine months we participated in stakeholder discussions that developed the white paper, which lays the foundation for a clean fuels policy that could expand ethanol usage in Minnesota’s transportation sector. 

Simply put, a clean fuels program is a performance-based incentive program that supports the usage of fuels with a lower lifecycle carbon intensity (CI) such as ethanol. Moreover, this program is designed to contribute to existing goals at the state level such as the Minnesota Petroleum Replacement Promotion Law, which calls for ethanol to comprise 30 percent of all transportation fuel in Minnesota by 2025.

While we are unlikely to meet that target in the next five years, a Minnesota Clean Fuels Policy could set us on the right path to achieving that goal and more. This is because when there is an economic value on carbon, the right incentives are placed for more ethanol usage in Minnesota’s transportation sector.

Here’s how the policy would work:  a governing body is established and a price is set for a ton of carbon (greenhouse gas emissions). As farmers and ethanol producers continue to improve their respective CI scores, so does ethanol’s CI score improve. The standards set through the policy and ethanol’s low CI then provides the necessary incentive for the petroleum industry to use more ethanol.

The policy could also lead to the usage of mid-level blends of ethanol as well as the introduction of new vehicles such as a plug-in flex fuel hybrid because auto manufacturers would also be provided an incentive.

And just like it would for the Minnesota Petroleum Replacement Promotion Law, a Minnesota Clean Fuels Policy would contribute to achieving the Walz Administration’s greenhouse gas emissions goal in the transportation sector.

Last year, the Minnesota Department of Transportation released a report that said a push for higher blends of ethanol and the necessary storage and dispensing infrastructure is a critical component in decarbonizing the state’s transportation sector.

The need for rapid GHG reductions underscores the need for more ethanol in the global transportation system. Over here in Minnesota, ethanol’s GHG savings are widely known but there hasn’t been an official policy that recognizes ethanol’s improving CI scores as a result of sustainable farming practices and increased efficiencies at ethanol plants.

Furthermore, a properly crafted Clean Fuels Policy for Minnesota holds the potential to further transform production efficiencies from the farm to ethanol plants to end-users and in turn, replace significant volumes of carbon-intensive petroleum.  If we get this right, the beneficiaries will be farmers (and by extension rural communities), ethanol producers and present and future generations of Minnesotans.