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Minnesota’s BioFuel Highway

Declaring Minnesota the “renewable fuel capital of America,” Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty announced a series of initiatives focused on increasing the use of biofuels (mainly ethanol, but also biodiesel and biohydrogen) combined with conservation and the use of hybrids. The initiatives include plans and orders:

  • To double the minimum required ethanol content in gasoline from 10% to 20% (E20) by 2010.

  • To reduce the use of gasoline and petroleum-based diesel in state government vehicles by 25% by 2010 and by 50% (each) by 2015. To achieve this goals, state departments must ensure that 75% of new on-road vehicle purchases (excluding emergency and law enforcement vehicles) have fuel efficiency ratings that exceed 30 miles per gallon for city usage or 35 miles per gallon for highway usage, including but not limited to hybrid electric cars and hydrogen-powered vehicles. Departments must also increase their use of renewable transportation fuels, including ethanol, biodiesel and bio-hydrogen. These, combined with increased use of electronic transactions to reduce use of the fleet should yield the gasoline reduction, while increasing the use of E85 ethanol fuel in state vehicles from 68,000 gallons to 1.7 million gallons.

  • To allow single-driver hybrids to use high-occupancy-vehicle lanes.

  • To purchase hybrid buses and to use ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel in other buses. Governor Pawlenty is directing the Met Council to add at least 20 hybrid buses to its fleet by 2008. (The Metropolitan Council is the regional planning agency tasked with, among other things, the bus system for the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area.) The Met Council currently has three hybrid buses. The Met Council has also committed to using ultra-low sulfur fuel for nearly half of its bus fleet.

  • To support the establishment of the U of Minnesota as a National Center of Excellence for Biofuels Research.

“It’s time that America and Minnesota get much more serious about the commitment to renewable fuels. We have been dragging our feet in this country for too long in terms of our addiction, our reliance on foreign oil,” Pawlenty said. “While progress has been made, it needs to be made more quickly and more dramatically.”

Hard to argue with that. This also clearly works for Minnesota’s farmers and biofuels producers.

Next year, Pawlenty takes over as chairman of the National Governors Association’s renewable fuels caucus, a platform he intends to use to push his plan on a national stage.

For years, Minnesota has been among the more ethanol-friendly states in the country, primarily through a 13-cent per gallon subsidy paid to the fuel’s producers. It is also the fourth-largest largest producer of ethanol, just behind Nebraska. The number of Flexible Fuel Vehicles in the state government fleet that can run on gasoline or E85 fuel is continually increasing. The number of gas stations with E85 recently topped 100 in Minnesota.

While most cars now can easily accept E10, any fuel with a higher ethanol concentration may void engine warranties (unless, of course, the car is a FFV).


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