Minnesota Governor Tim Walz has a wishy-washy and often contradictory history with his stance on ethanol and biodiesel fuels in his state. It seems as though whether he is supportive of the industry or not depends on his audience, or perhaps the day of the week. You might think that being part of the Governor’s Biofuels Coalition would mean you are a staunch supporter. And you might think that being Governor of a state that has such a large soybean – and biodiesel – production capacity would strengthen the support even more.
First came a letter in February to President Biden, on behalf of the Governors’ Biofuels Coalition, requesting he make biofuels a key component of ways to lower transportation sector emissions. Next, in a direct contradiction, he proposed the electric vehicle mandate proposal known as Clean Cars Minnesota, which was finalized this year. By subjecting Minnesota to California vehicle emissions regulations, this EV mandate includes requirements for an increased number of cars imported, sold, and used in Minnesota. By mandating the number of electric vehicles sold in Minnesota, this action will discriminate against the number of ethanol and biodiesel-fueled vehicles to be sold in the state. Aside from hurting the industry as a whole, many workers involved with the industry would be out of a job.
Riding the Fence
By advocating for an electric vehicle mandate, Gov. Walz has contradicted and undercut his otherwise stated support for biodiesel and ethanol. Since California is banning liquid fuels such as biofuel within their new vehicle standards, Minnesota would be subject to that provision. Ultimately, liquid fuel vehicles in Minnesota based on biodiesel would eventually be phased out. Eventually, multiple models of trucks and SUVs that are popular in Minnesota won’t even be available anymore.
Where Does the Ethanol Industry Stand?
Our ethanol industry also stands to be greatly hurt if Governor Walz continues to treat us like California. With our E10 mandate, which requires all gasoline sold in the state to contain 10% ethanol, and the 18 ethanol plants that generate over one billion gallons a year, it is a big industry. The first thing that will happen with more electric vehicles is less gasoline is needed. This alone could diminish the sector.
In addition, California has recently gone so far as to ban the sale of equipment that uses small gas-powered engines like leaf blowers and lawnmowers. If Governor Walz continues his trend of following in the footsteps of California, this new ban could happen right here in Minnesota. Machinery and equipment like this is vital for industry and agriculture and would be the next in a long line of blunders.
It is hard to comprehend how Governor Walz can advocate for the biodiesel and ethanol industry while pushing regulations that will ban the sale of liquid fuels for vehicles, and effectively expand the current EV mandate; he can’t have it both ways. With the number of times he has spoken out on both issues, you can see just how contradictory he has been.
walz in support of the biofuel industry
“We know we have to fight climate change, and we also know there’s going to be a bridge time as we move from fossil fuels into newer technologies. … Ethanol and biofuels are here to do that.” – Gov. Walz, Post-Bulletin, 10/29/20
“Why bring oil in from the Middle East when we can simply create ethanol in Preston, Minn.” – Gov. Walz, AGWeek, 11/3/20
“Biofuels are critical to Minnesota, not just for helping us meet our climate goals, but to our agricultural and rural economies and the state’s economy as a whole” – Gov. Walz, Office of the Governor, 4/10/21
“If you let the free market work, and you let ethanol get into that free market and compete with a highly subsidized oil industry — it will hold its own. … People will make that smart choice.” – Gov. Walz, AGWeek, 11/3/20
“The growth of the ethanol industry over the past 20 years has made it an economic cornerstone of many Midwestern states. But the once flourishing industry is now in jeopardy, threatened by trade wars, a litigious petroleum industry and shrinking demand caused by the pandemic.” – Gov. Walz, The Corn & Soybean Digest, 2/12/21
“As you begin your critical work to address climate change and promote economic opportunity, I encourage you to work with states on making biofuels a key component of addressing transportation sector emissions.” – Gov. Walz, The Corn & Soybean Digest, 2/12/21
“Biofuels are especially important in the near term as we begin the necessary transition into a carbon-neutral transportation sector. And they provide significant opportunity for economic growth and investment across rural America” – Gov. Walz, The Corn & Soybean Digest, 2/12/21
Walz in Support of an Electric Vehicle Mandate
“The new standards, finalized by a notice in the state register today, reduce carbon emissions, create good-paying jobs, boost Minnesota’s manufacturing industry, and increase the choices Minnesotans have in purchasing cars.” – Office of the Governor, 7/26/21
“…as Minnesota becomes a clean cars state, we’re creating jobs across every corner of the state, we’re giving Minnesotans more choices at their local car dealer, we’re saving Minnesotans money, and we’re reducing greenhouse gas emissions and protecting our environment for future generations. … These clean cars standards are a win across the board” – Gov. Walz, Office of the Governor, 7/26/21
“Why would we not take a lead? Why would we not get ahead on this? By the time we’re done, there will be another dozen states on board.”” – Gov. Walz, KARE 11 News, 5/22/21
The bottom line is we need our Governor to take a stand and support our ethanol industry.
I believe riding the fence is a good approach, not a bad one. The world is in a transitory energy phase away from fossil fuels to more environmentally friendly fuel sources. The Governor is wise in trying to plan ahead for that transition. Farms use to run on human power, then horse power, then coal/steam power, then petroleum power, and now bio/petroleum power. None of these transitions were greeted with fanfare by farmers, the transitions were worrisome, expensive, and unknown. Bio-fuels have never nor ever will be able to supply all the earths energy needs, they have always been a transitory source of fuel. As the earths population continues to increase more and more of edible crops will be needed only for food and bio-fuels will need to be made more and more only from non-edible parts of crops. A good transitory use of bio-fuels would be using them to power electric power plants to help meet the ever increasing demand on our electrical grid as more and more vehicles and machinery switch to EV power. Another possible transitory use would be using bio-fuels to create Hydrogen for powering fuel cell electric vehicles (FCVEs). Rather than bucking against change, find a way to participate in it.
Wanda Patsche says
Thank you for your comments. The farming community is not against EVs. It’s the mandatory part that is not acceptable. Promote them, incentivize them is the approach I would like to see, but don’t force it. People who are not involved in agriculture don’t understand the implications of mandates like this.
Were you against the E10 mandate as well?