Minnesota aims to be Saudi Arabia of renewable fuels

ST. PAUL, Minnesota, May 18, 2005 (ENS): Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty has signed into law a measure that will double the amount of ethanol in gasoline in Minnesota. "This bill strengthens our rural economy, improves our air quality and reduces our unhealthy dependence on foreign oil," said Governor Pawlenty, a Republican. "It also puts our state at the leading edge of a very promising industry. We truly are on our way to becoming the Saudi Arabia of renewable fuels."

Currently, a Minnesota law enacted in 1997 requires all gasoline sold within the state to include 10 percent ethanol (E-10).

Under the legislation signed by the Governor last week, a new E-20 mandate would take effect in 2013 unless ethanol has already replaced 20 percent of the state's motor vehicle fuel by 2010.

Increasing to a 20 percent blend could mean an economic impact of $1.58 billion and 6,157 jobs, Minnesota officials said.

"Utilizing homegrown renewable fuels is good for our farmers, it's good for rural economic development, it's good for national security, and it's good for the environment," said Pawlenty. "I would much rather have the fuel in our cars come from the Midwest than from the Middle East."

Pawlenty points out that in Brazil, about 15 percent vehicles use a blend of gasoline that contains nearly 100 percent ethanol. The remaining vehicles use blends of 24 percent ethanol with 76 percent gasoline. "These cars are manufactured by many of the same major automobile companies who manufacture cars for use in the United States," he said.

A research report from the Minnesota Center for Automotive Research at Minnesota State University-Mankato showed that there were no drivability or material compatibility problems experienced by 15 vehicles of various years, makes and models using E-30.

Minnesota has North America's largest network of E-85 gas stations with about 130 stations now online. Some 120,000 Minnesotans now drive flexible fuel cars designed to burn either gasoline or E-85, a blend of 85 percent ethyl alcohol and 15 percent gasoline.

E-85 is produced from the starch in agricultural products, primarily domestically produced corn. Growing corn removes CO2 from the atmosphere so that the total effect of using ethanol made from corn is a reduction in greenhouse emissions when compared to the use of petroleum fuels.

Minnesota already has the highest renewable fuel use per capita in the nation. Minnesota was the first state to require the use of ethanol in gasoline. Other states are beginning to follow suit.

Last year Hawaii enacted a measure similar to Minnesota's mandate. The Governor of Montana signed their new E-10 requirement into law last Friday. Through his leadership as chairman of the Governors' Ethanol Coalition, Pawlenty is encouraging other states to join the movement.

"This legislation is a win for everybody," Minnesota Corn Growers Association President Gene Sandager said. "By increasing demand for ethanol, local farmers now have a larger market for what they produce right here in Minnesota. That's good for the entire state."

The ethanol industry provides jobs for more than 5,300 Minnesotans and pumps $1.3 billion dollars into Minnesota's economy. There are 14 ethanol plants in Minnesota that produce more than 450 million gallons of ethanol every year, with two more plants currently under construction. Minnesota ranks fourth in the nation in production of fuel-grade ethanol, after Iowa, Illinois and Nebraska. Minnesota corn growers send approximately 15 percent of their crop to ethanol plants.

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