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Governors’ Biofuels Coalition seeks action from Biden

Minnesota governor says a once flourishing biofuels industry is in jeopardy.

Jacqui Fatka, Policy editor

February 12, 2021

2 Min Read

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz, as chair of the Governors’ Biofuels Coalition, sent a letter to President Joe Biden asking him to take two administrative steps to ensure the future of the states’ biofuels community by banning the use of aromatics in gasoline and adopting new renewable fuel standards.

“The growth of the ethanol industry over the past 20 years has made it an economic cornerstone of many Midwestern states. But the once flourishing industry is now in jeopardy, threatened by trade wars, a litigious petroleum industry and shrinking demand caused by the pandemic,” Walz writes.  

Walz warns that “technology advances, which will significantly benefit the nation overall, could have a devastating impact on the ethanol industry and the rural communities it supports without a planned, balanced transition.” The Biden Adminstration is moving forward on plans to promote carbon-neutral or zero-emission vehicles in the future, and it's that transition that is a concern to the ethanol industry.

The governor proposed two administrative actions to ease that transition including issuing an executive order banning the use of aromatics in gasoline and adopting new renewable fuel standard regulations.

“As you begin your critical work to address climate change and promote economic opportunity, I encourage you to work with states on making biofuels a key component of addressing transportation sector emissions. Biofuels are especially important in the near term as we begin the necessary transition into a carbon-neutral transportation sector. And they provide significant opportunity for economic growth and investment across rural America,” says Walz.

By taking executive action to ban aromatics, Walz says the administration would be enforcing a largely ignored provision in the Clean Air Act, would “benefit public health, the environment and the biofuels industry,” he states. 

The governor points out that “reducing aromatics would lessen the fine particulate emissions associated with respiratory diseases.”  The substitution of cleaner octane additives for aromatics would “expand the market for ethanol by a projected twofold increase,” according to the governor, boosting jobs and the economy in rural America.

Walz recognizes the Renewable Fuel Standard as “one of Congress’s most significant energy policy accomplishments,” but cautions that its regulations, particularly the waiver provision, have been manipulated and distorted “to keep the RFS from meeting its full potential,” and abuses by billion-dollar companies have instead “severely damaged the nation’s biofuels industry.”

Walz writes that he has “seen firsthand how the ethanol industry has transformed and revived rural communities and contributed to the fight against climate change.”  But today he sees those communities and the ethanol industry as “endangered.” 

He believes the “proposed executive actions would provide much needed stability in rural America and provide countless benefits to all Americans.”

Walz also encouraged Biden to support the effort led by Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, to create a renewable fuel infrastructure grant program and to streamline underground storage tank regulations. “Their plan would smooth the path to higher biofuel blends,” he says.

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About the Author(s)

Jacqui Fatka

Policy editor, Farm Futures

Jacqui Fatka grew up on a diversified livestock and grain farm in southwest Iowa and graduated from Iowa State University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications, with a minor in agriculture education, in 2003. She’s been writing for agricultural audiences ever since. In college, she interned with Wallaces Farmer and cultivated her love of ag policy during an internship with the Iowa Pork Producers Association, working in Sen. Chuck Grassley’s Capitol Hill press office. In 2003, she started full time for Farm Progress companies’ state and regional publications as the e-content editor, and became Farm Futures’ policy editor in 2004. A few years later, she began covering grain and biofuels markets for the weekly newspaper Feedstuffs. As the current policy editor for Farm Progress, she covers the ongoing developments in ag policy, trade, regulations and court rulings. Fatka also serves as the interim executive secretary-treasurer for the North American Agricultural Journalists. She lives on a small acreage in central Ohio with her husband and three children.

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