Sunday, December 13, 2009

Biodiesel mandate – at what cost?

The season’s first weather chill draws attention to another of Minnesota’s nation-leading energy mandates – and its resulting “cost.” We are the only state to require B5 – that all diesel fuel sold within our borders contains 5-percent biodiesel. By 2015, the mandate increases to B20. This fuel is made from renewable resources blended with petroleum diesel. In Minnesota, biodiesel is made primarily from soybean oil.

Other states have the biodiesel requirement, but Minnesota’s is easily the most aggressive. We are also the only cold-weather state to mandate B5, and that’s significant. Biodiesel often gels up during cold weather, thus hampering the performance of all diesel-fuel engines. The problem has flared up in recent winters with some school bus fleets.

Minnesota’s commissioner of commerce does have the ability to suspend the mandate when required by weather or supply issues. Still, the mandate forces diesel users in Minnesota to spend more money on fuel than states such as Wisconsin and Iowa without the mandate. The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce supports the development of renewable fuels, but mandates must be in tune with “real world” economics.

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