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Serving: MN
Close up of a gas pump with E-85, E-30 and E-15 fuel options Paula Mohr
CLEAN CARS, CLEAN AIR: Minnesota state leadership is discussing ways to reduce carbon emissions, including the possibility of following stricter California emissions standards. Biofuel producers in the state are concerned about the impact of the standards on the biofuels industry.

Ag biofuels at table to discuss Minnesota ‘clean car’ standards

Proposed vehicle emissions standards could have long-term impacts on biofuel use in Minnesota.

There has been some discussion recently in the media about a proposal from the Walz administration to adopt new rules governing passenger vehicle tailpipe emission standards for air quality and greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), also referred to as Minnesota Clean Car Standards or California emission standards.

Gov. Tim Walz has set reducing carbon emissions in Minnesota a priority for his administration. The Minnesota Corn Growers Association was made aware of this proposal last fall and has been actively engaged in the process to represent the best interests of corn farmers.

In September 2019, the Minnesota Department of Transportation released a report, “Pathways to Decarbonizing Transportation in Minnesota,” which makes recommendations to reduce carbon emissions from surface transportation in Minnesota.

The report included several recommendations: Adopt clean car standards, strengthen petroleum replacement goals, expand biofuel infrastructure, expand use of higher biodiesel blends and renewable diesel, facilitate ways to use renewable diesel in Minnesota, and create incentives for measures that reduce the carbon impact of biofuels.

The report clearly shows a growing role for blending biofuels in gasoline as a carbon reduction strategy for Minnesota, but it also emphasized electric vehicles as another key strategy.

In order to make progress on the biofuel recommendations contained in the report, Walz created a Governor’s Council on Biofuels to advise the administration on policies to foster growth of Minnesota’s biofuel industry. Brian Thalmann represents MCGA on the council, which is expected to complete a report in November of this year. The report is expected to include policy recommendations to accelerate the growth and use biofuels, like ethanol, in Minnesota.

MCGA also launched the Better Fuel Initiative in January to further increase the awareness, understanding and usage of biofuels in Minnesota. As a part of the Better Fuel Initiative, MCGA has been advocating for policy to increase the use and accessibility of ethanol and worked to advance a bill during the regular session of the Minnesota Legislature that would increase Minnesota’s biofuel standard from 10% to 15%.

After passing out of agriculture policy committees in both the House and Senate, progress on the bill was difficult as legislators shifted their focus to respond to COVID-19 and legislative operations were altered. MCGA looks forward to building on that progress during the 2021 legislative session.

Minnesota clean car standards

Although the report laid out a role for biofuels in reducing GHG emissions in transportation, another key recommendation was for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to begin rulemaking on a clean car rule for Minnesota that would include low-emission (LEV) and zero-emission vehicle standards (ZEV). These emissions standards were first adopted by California and have been adopted by 14 other states.

California has the ability under the Clean Air Act to set stricter vehicle emission standards.

The clean car standards could have near and long-term impacts on biofuel use in Minnesota, and we need to understand the various aspects of the proposal.

In December 2019 MCGA invited MPCA assistant commissioner Craig McDonnel to discuss the proposal with a group of county delegates and farmer leaders at our annual pre-resolutions meeting in Willmar.

Also last December, during a pre-rulemaking comment period, MCGA submitted comments to MPCA using input from our members and farmer leaders to raise concerns. The comments asked MPCA to consider impact on ethanol and agriculture in the regulatory analysis since none of the other states that have the LEV or ZEV standard have nearly the same amount of ethanol production or use compared to Minnesota.

MCGA also emphasized the proven role biofuels should play in reducing GHG emissions, as outlined in the report, and asked MPCA to consider developing biofuel infrastructure to support their use.

The original timeline for rulemaking from MPCA has changed slightly. MPCA has stated they intend to complete rulemaking early in 2021, which would mean the requirements would not begin until model year 2025. The draft rule has not been published yet.

MCGA will take the time to do the analysis and understand long-term implications for corn growers. We will keep you updated on developments.

You can also follow the MCGA blog and its social channels for updates. And you can follow me on Twitter @ajbilek or contact me directly at abilek@mncorn.org.

Bilek is senior public policy director for the Minnesota Corn Growers Association.

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