Minnesota thickens biodiesel blend


Minnesota will be the first state in the nation to authorize a 10 percent blend of renewable biodiesel in petroleum diesel fuel on July 1, AgriNews reports.

The step up from 5 percent, with a 2018 target of 20 percent, is based on 2008 state legislation that set several conditions before the move could be made. They included adequate national specifications and regulations, sufficient supply and blending infrastructure and a requirement that 5 percent of the additional biodiesel (5 percent of 5 percent, or one-quarter of 1 percent of the total) come from non-agricultural resources such as algae and sewage sludge.

Some of those conditions weren’t met last year, when B10 was first expected to debut. Supply isn’t a problem, however: Minnesota plants in Isanti, Brewster and Albert Lea pump out more than the 60 million gallons of biodiesel a year needed to attain the new standard. Most of it is made from vegetable oil.

Lobbying pressure from soybean growers helped put Minnesota’s nation-leading law on the books and headed off subsequent bills to repeal it. But biodiesel isn’t just an economic boost for the farming sector; B5 alone has kept 644 million pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere annually, according to the American Lung Association.

Because of concerns about cold-weather performance of biodiesel, B10 will be sold only April through September in Minnesota, with B5 in pumps the rest of the year. But proponents say even much richer blends work fine. George Goblish, president of the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association, to AgriNews’ Janet Kubat Willette that he’s fueled his trucks with as much as 100 percent of the stuff, producing appetizing tailpipe emissions that smell like french fries.

Biodiesel can power not just motor vehicles, but also railroad locomotives, aircraft and heating systems. As with corn-based ethanol, debate continues over the full economic and environmental impacts of this renewable fuel. For now, though, it’s wise policy for Minnesota to ramp up use of a home-grown energy source that directly spews zero greenhouse gasses.