Letter: Focusing on Next Generation fuelsAs our state moves forward in its research and production of our country’s next generation of biofuel, I believe it is important to have an open and honest conversation about our state government’s involvement in the process
By: Dist. 22 Sen. Jim Vickerman, DFL-Tracy, Worthington Daily Globe
As our state moves forward in its research and production of our country’s next generation of biofuel, I believe it is important to have an open and honest conversation about our state government’s involvement in the process. As nearly every issue debated by the Senate, ethanol — and issues surrounding it — is complicated, and we need to ensure that we are moving our state in the right direction. There are three main reasons why we need to continue to focus on alternative fuel resources gaining some independence from the use of foreign oil, reducing green house gasses produced from our vehicles, and creating jobs and economic development in rural Minnesota.
Most people would agree that the United States needs to discover a path to energy independence. The cost of oil continues to be volatile, and controlling future costs is mostly out of our hands. Finding a source of fuel that we can produce within our own borders that both supplies needed jobs and has a smaller impact on our environment should be a priority.
I do not want to claim that ethanol is a magic “silver bullet” to gaining our independence, but it is an important piece of the puzzle.
We need to remember that we are only beginning to understand what we can do with biofuels and where they can bring us.
We have only seen the tip of the iceberg in biofuel technology, and the legislature is dedicated to continuing research to find more uses for biofuel. In recent years, the legislature has funded Next Generation biofuel research that includes studies on forest biomass, native prairie plants biomass, and multistream renewable energy biofuels. Through research, we are hoping to develop a more cost efficient fuel that is less damaging to our environment.
A recent study performed by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln shows that corn ethanol emits 51 percent less greenhouse gasses than gasoline. As we continue to explore biofuel technology, it can only be assumed that we will continue to improve on that number. We have been damaging our planet for far to long through the use of harmful gasses. We need to continue to find new ways to improve our emissions and ethanol could be a major contributor to that improvement.
Opponents of ethanol often make the claim that the industry would not survive if it wasn’t for government subsidies. What they are leaving out in their argument is that the government also subsidizes oil. A gallon of gas that costs $1.85 would actually cost around $5.85 without government subsidies. In contrast, a gallon of E85 that costs $1.45 would only increase to $2.23 without subsidies.
Minnesota has the opportunity to lead our country towards less dependence on foreign oil and a healthier environment. Being a leader could mean thousands of new jobs throughout rural Minnesota. We don’t have all of the answers yet, but we need to continue to move forward to make a better Minnesota.