How soybeans will save a million tons of CO2 in Minnesota

Governor Mark Dayton's Thursday announcement has implications for diesel users.
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It's been more than a decade since Minnesota introduced a law that any diesel fuel sold in the state must contain renewable biodiesel. Now, the state is expanding the program even further.

Biodiesel, fuel made from vegetable oils, animal fats or recycled restaurant grease, is less toxic, less polluting and generates fewer greenhouse gases than conventional petroleum diesel.

Minnesota's biodiesel is mostly made using soybeans, and in 2005 the state started mandating that diesel fuel sold to vehicle owners must contain at least 2 percent biodiesel. This was upped to 10 percent in 2014.

Starting next May, diesel fuel sold at the pumps must contain 20 percent of biodiesel, Gov. Mark Dayton announced on Thursday. This will apply during the summer months next year, before it drops back to 5 percent during the winter "to ensure cold-weather reliability."

From 2019, B20 will be available in filling stations from April-September every year.

This will not only provide a boost to the state's soybean farmers (Dayton says it'll add 63 cents for every bushel produced), it will have significant environmental impacts as well, removing 1 million tons of CO2 emissions and 130 tons of particulate emissions from the atmosphere every year.

“B20 will help keep Minnesota at the forefront of the homegrown clean energy revolution that is expanding economic opportunities for the state’s farmers and rural communities while reducing pollution and improving air quality for everyone," said Minnesota Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman.

The Mankato Free Press notes that Minnesota is the first to mandate 20 percent biodiesel use. 

Biodiesel in Minnesota

Minnesota produces 74 million gallons of biodiesel annually at three plants in Albert Lea, Brewster and Isanti.

The industry as a whole contributes $1.7 billion to the state economy, the governor's office said.

The state's Commerce Department is tasked with enforcing the rules, visiting filling stations across Minnesota to ensure their diesel fuel has the required biodiesel levels.

While it is cleaner than petroleum diesel, biodiesel tends to be more expensive, meaning that the introduction of B20 fuel is likely to add some cents to every gallon at pumps next year, FuelEconomy.com notes.

The website adds that B20 diesel tends to reduce fuel economy and vehicle power by around 2 percent compared to petrol diesel.

The EPA has previously said that biodiesel reduces greenhouse gas emissions by between 57-86 percent compared to petroleum diesel, MinnPost reports, and the industry supports 64,000 jobs nationwide.

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