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Corn+Soybean Digest

Biodiesel Is Delayed But Not Deterred

"There is a misperception out in the countryside that MSGA (Minnesota Soybean Growers Association) ‘lost’ its battle for biodiesel in the legislature this year," says Don Louwagie, president of MSGA. "Quite the contrary. We were exceptionally successful in taking biodiesel from a fuel not too many people knew about to a household word – in just five months."

Biodiesel legislation was introduced in January by Representative Torrey Westrom (R-Elbow Lake) and Senator Jim Vickerman (D-Tracy) that would require all diesel fuel sold in the state contain a 2% blend of biodiesel starting July 1, 2002.

It passed in a number of committees – from agriculture to environment to transportation and taxes, and eventually was put in the hands of a Conference Committee. The compromise bill was passed on the Senate floor, but was sent back to conference committee by the House in the last frantic hours of the session.

"We basically ran out of time," Louwagie says. "But I take pride in knowing that biodiesel is now recognized – from the capitol in St. Paul, throughout the metro area, across rural Minnesota, in neighboring states and across the nation – as a viable, beneficial alternative fuel."

By mid-April, major Twin Cities newspapers had added biodiesel to their "Major Legislative Hot Issues" lists.

Louwagie believes the momentum generated by this year’s biodiesel legislative effort puts the organization ahead of the game when the next session begins in January 2002.

"Remember, it took almost 10 years to get ethanol to where it is today," Louwagie says. "Because of the prior success of the Minnesota Coalition for Ethanol, the Minnesota Corn Growers Association, the Minnesota Lung Association and many other groups, the growing acceptance of alternative fuels has been established."

MSGA expects to be back on the floor of the Minnesota House and Senate next year. Meanwhile, the American Soybean Association and the National Corn Growers Association are calling for the Administration and Congress to support a requirement that up to 3% of all motor fuels sold in the United States in 10 years be either biodiesel or ethanol.

Source: Don Louwagie, 507-532-6081

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