Executive Director’s Column

It’s one thing to talk about renewable energy, and another to do something about it.

Many Minnesotans recognize the impact renewable energy has on agriculture and our economy. But recognizing opportunity isn’t enough. Capitalizing on it is key — and it’s happening in Minnesota.

The state legislature has elevated our national leadership in ethanol production by passing legislation requiring a 20-percent ethanol blend in gasoline sold here. Currently most Minnesota gasoline contains a 10-percent ethanol blend. The mandate takes effect in 2013, unless ethanol makes up one-fifth of the gas sold in the state by then.

A 20-percent blend would create an annual ethanol demand estimated at 575 million gallons. Right now, the state’s capacity is more than 400 million gallons. But with more plants being constructed and planned, we should be able to meet the increased demand.

Minnesota’s biodiesel industry is also moving up. FUMPA Biofuels in Redwood Falls has been operating a refinery for more than half a year, plus plants are under construction near Albert Lea and Brewster. When they start operating later this summer, the state’s biodiesel capacity will swell to nearly 60 million gallons per year. When Minnesota’s capacity reaches 8 million gallons, a mandate passed several years ago will kick in requiring a 2-percent biodiesel blend in every gallon of diesel sold. That will place Minnesota squarely in the forefront of the industry.

The Center for Producer-Owned Energy, a USDA-funded Ag Innovation Center operated by AURI, is also furthering ag-based, renewable-energy applications such as biomass gasification, biodiesel/wind hybrid projects, biogas production and improved ethanol manufacturing.

Minnesota has the natural resources, open-mindedness and drivers to take the lead in renewable energy from agricultural sources.

In fact, we’re already doing it.

 

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