MnSP officials advocate for biodiesel in Washington
BREWSTER -- A trio of representatives from Minnesota Soybean Processors in Brewster were in the nation's capitol earlier this week to meet with legislators and lobby for continued support of biodiesel.
Taryl Enderson, MnSP general manager, said more than 100 advocates from the biodiesel industry were in Washington, D.C., for a National Biodiesel Board meeting and legislative visits on Capitol Hill.
Topping their list of talking points with legislators was the biodiesel blending credit, which is slated to expire at the end of this year, and continued support for the renewable fuels standard (RFS2), which mandates a 2 percent biodiesel blend with all diesel fuel sold across the country.
"The RFS2, for 2013, is 1.28 billion gallons and we're hoping to have that increased for the next year," Enderson said, adding that the industry should produce approximately 1.5 billion gallons of biodiesel this year.
Joining Enderson from MnSP on the trip to Washington were Ron Marr, of Des Moines, Iowa, a biodiesel salesman for MnSP, and Michael Zins, Fulda, president of the MnSP board of directors. This was Zins' first visit to Capitol Hill in support of biodiesel.
The three met with Sen. Al Franken and Rep. Collin Peterson, along with staff of Rep. Tim Walz, Rep. Betty McCollum and Rep. Eric Paulsen.
"Collin Peterson and Al Franken really know where we're coming from and what rural Minnesota needs, and they're very knowledgeable about biodiesel," Zins said.
Zins' message to legislators was the impact the renewable fuels standard has on Minnesota communities like Brewster.
"We've got 80 people employed at MnSP and we're trying to grow the plant," he said, adding that the local cooperative wants commitment from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to continue promotion of alternative energy.
"We tried to impress with them how much value that adds to the community as far as farmers' crops and availability (of biodiesel)," Zins said.
The quality of biodiesel produced in plants like MnSP today is "head and shoulders above" what was produced just three or four years ago, said Zins, who burns 80 percent biodiesel in equipment on his own farm.
"That's the thing we were trying to educate some of the people on as well," he said. "It's a good, stable, clean fuel. It has to meet industry standards, and it does."
While MnSP officials are hopeful the renewable fuels standard will remain intact, they are a little less certain about an extension of the blender's credit. The credit is essentially a subsidy provided to blenders to encourage them to use renewable fuels.
"It costs the government money, in their opinion, but in my opinion, they get money back," Zins said, adding that he thinks the extension has a "50-50 shot" of happening.
"We can produce without the blender's credit, but it certainly makes it easier to market to the blenders (if it remains in place)," Zins said. "We think there's a financial justification for it."
"Our Minnesota representatives are in favor of it," Enderson added. "They like the renewable fuels, but that's just a small portion of Congress."
Locally, MnSP continues to operate at full capacity after completing its annual plant shutdown, which lasted three weeks. The biodiesel plant was only down for about a week, Enderson said.
"We're running wide open and crush is also running pretty heavy," he added. "Right now, business is pretty good for biodiesel."
Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330