In April 2011 the Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association was founded to represent and promote the renewable fuels industry in Minnesota. According to Tim Rudnicki, executive director, as a state and a union, the country faces many challenges on the energy and environmental front and the Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association is providing solutions to these challenges.
When asked about the Association, Rudnicki explained, “We are a non-profit organization and our members include ethanol producers in Minnesota as well as industry vendors. Our aim is to work with our stakeholders in a collaborative manner to achieve our collective goal of a greener future, a stronger economy in Minnesota, consumer savings at the pump and a more energy independent America.”
The Association has three key areas of focus:
- Advocacy: Their active engagement takes place at the state capitol in St Paul with a variety of state agencies and departments as well as through the governor’s office. They work with policymakers and agency officials to give voice to the biofuels industry in matters that impact day-to-day production operations and to further grow the industry.
- Fuel Supply Chain Development: They work closely with fuel retailers in the state to increase the availability of fuels such as E15 and E85. They are also able to connect them with wholesale suppliers of E15 and E85 and infrastructure and equipment providers and also educate them on the business case to sell E15 and E85.
- Communications: As the representative of the biofuels industry in Minnesota, they organization is constantly communicating and educating consumers on the various benefits of ethanol in transportation fuel as well as changing negative perceptions. Their communication channels include a website with extensive resources on biofuels, social media, advertising and email marketing and they also liaise with the media throughout the state.
One of the founding members of the Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association is Highwater Ethanol, a 59.5 million gallon per year denatured ethanol facility located in Lamberton. They also produce nearly 150,000 tons of dried distillers grains (DDGs) and in April of this year began producing corn oil.
In May of 2006, Brian Kletscher began working with Hightower Ethanol as the president of the Board of Directors and then in November of 2008 was hired as the CEO. He has served as the president of Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association since 2011.
When asked why Highwater Ethanol became involved with the Association, Kletscher noted that being a part of Minnesota biofuel producers, they needed another strong voice to deal directly with potential challenges for the industry and the Association is set up to address many biofuel opportunities. For example, the Association has been participating in bringing additional biofuel usage to Minnesota, by supporting usage of higher blends of ethanol and other biofuels.
“This means educating and promoting the clear, clean benefits of ethanol and biofuels for the consumer,” explained Kletscher. “We want to make sure the biofuels industry voice is heard when we are involved in developing pro-biofuel public policies to improve the environmental quality. We needed a strong organization to help in convening stakeholders for continued promoting and usage of ethanol and biofuels. We are involved to ensure that our message to consumers is clear on the benefits of ethanol and biofuels.”
Kletscher also said that their plant, along with the Association, is helping Minnesotans to understand that rural and urban leaders are united in the use and clean benefits of ethanol and biofuels. “We want to make sure that our education system is empowered to understand the clean, clear benefits of ethanol and biofuels use for the environment, the job base and the economic impact in rural and urban areas,” added Kletscher. “We promote the use of a Minnesota grown agricultural product such as corn, while demonstrating the enhanced economic benefit to the end user in price reduction at the pump when filling up your car or truck.”
Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association has enjoyed several key successes in the past several years. Rudnicki noted that the organization successfully spearheaded a multi-legislative session to increase the tiered petroleum replacement to at least 30 percent by 2025. They also worked with Governor Mark Dayton to declare October 2013 as Biofuels Month. This year, they led a campaign to bring about equitable tax treatment for biofuel producers.
“We have also expanded our presence in social media platforms such as Facebook and today, we have 5,669 fans, which is more than other similar organizations,” said Rudnicki. “Social media has given us the ability to speak directly to consumers and in turn change perceptions and make consumers aware of the biofuel options that can cut down greenhouse gas emissions while saving them dollars at the pump.”
Kletscher is also proud of the work the Association did when working with rural and urban legislators to develop an equitable property tax treatment for biofuel producers. “We have also worked closely with agricultural educators in the state to provide students with a better understanding of biofuel production,” added Kletscher.
The story continues tomorrow….