North Mankato, Minn. — Minnesota’s biodiesel consumption got a power boost this spring when the state’s requirement for biodiesel blends more than doubled.
Beginning May 1, diesel sold in Minnesota must have a five-percent biodiesel blend, up from two percent required since 2005. Biodiesel legislation, passed in 2002, made Minnesota the first state to require biodiesel blends after the state reached eight million gallons of capacity, which it did in 2005.
Biodiesel can be made from soy or other vegetable oils and animal fats. Research shows that the renewable fuel significantly reduces harmful vehicle emissions.
“Reducing our carbon footprint is probably one of the most important benefits of biodiesel,” says Lance Peterson, an Underwood, Minn. soybean farmer and former Biodiesel Task Force member. “Every year since the twopercent requirement began, 258 million pounds of carbon dioxide have been removed from the atmosphere. Annually, the five-percent blend will remove 644 million pounds.”
Minnesota’s biodiesel requirement will increase to 10 percent in 2012, removing 1.3 billion pounds of carbon dioxide and 20 percent by 2015, removing 2.6 billion pounds, Peterson says.
The five-percent blend will increase biodiesel consumption by about 40 million gallons per year, and, by law, a minimum of 50 percent must come from Minnesota. The state’s annual production capacity is more than 63 million gallons, but not all plants are at capacity.
“This is a big deal to have two and a half times more biodiesel going into the market because we have available capacity that will come into use,” says Doug Root, AURI biomass and renewable products scientist. “The industry has faced some hard times and this is a step in the right direction.”
While the biodiesel industry in Minnesota was largely built by soybean producers, the opportunities aren’t limited to one crop.
“Soybean oil will continue to be a big part of the industry … but biofuels of the future will create opportunity for others, too,” says Mike Youngerberg of the Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council and Executive Director of the Minnesota Biodiesel Council.
Emerging technologies are improving the feasibility of using other feedstocks such as corn oil and animal fats. While current market and economic conditions have challenged biodiesel production, industry proponents say it remains strong.
National Biodiesel Board President Ed Hegland of Appleton, Minn. says, last year alone, U.S. biodiesel producers supported 50,000 green-collar jobs, contributed $4 billion to the nation’s economy and displaced almost 700 million gallons of petroleum.