Ethanol fuel efforts clear House committee

·2 min read

Mar. 8—MANKATO — A proposal to require more ethanol in Minnesota's gasoline cleared its first hurdle in the Minnesota Legislature Monday.

The House agriculture committee unanimously approved a bill sponsored by Rep. Luke Frederick, DFL-Mankato, that would mandate gas sold containing at least 15% ethanol by volume by 2026, or 2023 for distributors and service stations who meet compatibility requirements.

That committee reviewed the ethanol proposal last month and made significant changes to Frederick's bill. Aside from giving more time to gasoline distributors to comply with the regulations, lawmakers amended the bill to get rid of a biofuels education mandate and bring the E15 standard back to the Legislature for review in 2029.

Not everyone agreed with those changes, however. Republican Rep. Paul Anderson of Starbuck questioned why the state would want the new standard to expire in 2029.

"If we go ahead and build up whatever infrastructure that we can, and to have the mandate expire in a couple years to me is counterproductive," Anderson said.

Frederick said after the hearing he hoped the amendments would provide a good compromise for lawmakers in other committees.

"I am happy that it was able to move out of ag, but there's a long road ahead," Frederick said.

All gas sold in the U.S. has at least 10% ethanol by volume due to federal requirements, but Minnesota has in the past increased its biofuels standards beyond federal rules.

Both Democrats and Republicans support raising Minnesota's ethanol standard to 15%, though questions remain over how the standard will be mandated. Frederick said the House commerce and energy committees will review the bill, while an E15 bill sponsored by Sen. Torrey Westrom, R-Elbow Lake, awaits discussion in several committees as well.

Critics of the bill say it will be fiscally difficult for gas retailers to upgrade their storage tanks and infrastructure over the next few years, while others say moving to E15 doesn't do enough to address vehicle carbon emissions.

Frederick said he understood some of the concerns but pointed out raising the ethanol content in gasoline cuts down on carbon emissions, helps the state's corn producers who sell to ethanol processing plants and acts as a bridge for clean energy vehicle technology in the future.

"There is no light switch" when it comes to moving toward electric cars and other clean energy vehicles, Frederick said. "It's going to take 20 to 30 years to roll those out."

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