The Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association is working on behalf of the biofuels industry and consumers throughout Minnesota. With several successes under their belt, the Association has identified several more goals they would like to achieve on behalf of the biofuels industry over the next few years.
“We are hopeful the next two years will lead us into opportunities to develop higher usage of ethanol blends, in particular we will work hard on promoting usage of E15 in 2001 and newer vehicles,” said Brian Kletscher, CEO of Highwater Ethanol and President of the Board of the Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association. “To help accomplish this we have hired a Biofuels Marketing Manager, this will allow us to directly communicate with the many gas station owners in the State of Minnesota and give them guidance on how to bring in E15 to their gas station while providing and economic benefit to them as owners while also passing on a savings to their customers in lower cost for E15.”
Tim Rudnicki, executive director of the Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association echoes Kletscher’s goal. In addition, Rudnicki said they are continuing to increase the use of E85. “Sales of E85 in Minnesota have been on the rise but there is still plenty of room to grow. There are many flex-fuel vehicle owners who don’t know the benefits of using E85 or even the fact that it’s 80 cents cheaper per gallon on average in Minnesota.”
When asked if the biofuels industry would have seen as many successes without the Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association, Kletscher said while the industry was growing prior to the formation of the Association, by working with Minnesota Corn Growers Association, Soybean Growers Association and other ethanol related organization, the formation of the Association has allowed the ethanol industry and biofuels industry the opportunity to branch out and grow in supporting and promoting the usage of their products.
“While doing this we have maintained a strong relationship with the associations and related organizations that walked with and grew the biofuels industry to the point that it is today,” said Kletscher.
However, as Rudnicki identifies, the political landscape will have an effect on their work but for the most part, the view of biofuels is positive. “We are fortunate that many of our federal and state-level senators and representatives are supportive of biofuels and support measures to increase its usage,” he said. “We work closely with many of them and they understand how important biofuels are to the economy in Minnesota and its role in reducing prices at the pump, greenhouse gases and our dependence on foreign oil. Biofuels are the only viable solution to removing our dependence on harmful fossil fuels and many of them understand that.”
Despite the positive political landscape, there are still three critical things that need to happen to ensure the future growth of the Minnesota biofuels industry as outlined by Rudnicki:
- The renewable volume obligations (RVO) under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) need to be adhered to. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) needs to stick to the RFS and not bend to Big Oil. The “Blend Wall” is pure fiction. Eight out of 10 cars can use E15.
- Minnesota has set its own laws that call for the increase of biofuels over the next 10 years. Like the RFS, we need to stick to these goals if we are truly serious about reducing the use of fossil fuels and emission of harmful greenhouse gases.
- We – along with all other similar organizations – need to continue communicating and educating the public on the benefits of using biofuels. When there is sufficient demand, supply will increase.
The biggest hurdle according to Rudnicki is what the industry is facing with the EPA’s proposed RVOs under the RFS for 2014. “It’s October and the EPA has yet to make an announcement on the RVO for this year,” he said. “Such delays hinder the industry, be it in Minnesota or elsewhere. It has stifled investments in advanced biofuels. Some ethanol producers have even shelved plans to expand their plant capacity. Meanwhile such delays by the EPA have also affected the growth of fuels like E15.”
The EPA has submitted its final proposal to the Office of Management and Budget and Obama administration for review, but the final rule has yet to be released.
It is this issue among others as to why Kletscher encourages other biofuel stakeholders to be involved with the Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association. “Biofuels stakeholders are not just the facility that produce the ethanol or biofuels or the farmers that raise the corn or soybeans, or the vendors that services the industry,” explained Kletscher. “The real stakeholders are every citizen in Minnesota. They should be involved because of the environmental and economic benefits that biofuels offers to them plus there are renewed agricultural opportunities.”
He also noted the problem of smog in hundreds of cities across the country and in Minnesota. He points to the air quality problems faced by Minnesota in the St. Paul/Minneapolis metro area in the 1970’s and 1980’s and with the addition of 10 percent ethanol fuel blend, ethanol helped clean the air quality.”
I believe the ethanol industry gave every citizen the opportunity for better air quality, and the positive impact on air quality is still here today. Growth and usage of E15 will continue to help promote clean air quality,” said Kletscher.
The Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association is showcasing their work during the 2014 National Advanced Biofuels Conference taking place October 12-14, 2014 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Their goal is continue educating the industry about their work and gain additional support for their efforts.