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It's truckers vs. farmers on biodiesel mandate

ST. PAUL — Adding something to a petroleum-based fuel always has been controversial, so it should be no surprise that soybean-based biodiesel brings disputes.

“It’s blatantly unfair and costly to the trucking industry,” President John Hausladen of the Minnesota Trucking Association said about a law that took effect Tuesday requiring diesel fuel to contain 10 percent biodiesel.

His association’s chairman, Daniel Svaloja, complains that truckers are being forced to use the biodiesel blend even though other industries, such as mining companies, are exempt. Giving some industries a pass on the mandate proves the fuel blend has problems, Svaloja said.

“I believe the biodiesel industry is mature and can stand on its own” without a state mandate, said Svaloja, a Wadena native, who made a stop at Lund Boats in New York Mills and now is a Blaine-based transportation attorney.

Minnesota instituted its first biodiesel mandate in 2002, when a 2 percent biodiesel blend was ordered. It was raised to 5 percent, which on Tuesday was upped to 10 percent (but only during Minnesota’s warmest months).

From the time ethanol was first debated long before biodiesel came into the spotlight, opponents have complained that blending plant-based fuel with petroleum products would hurt performance or damage engines. While corn-based ethanol is blended at 10 percent levels in gasoline with few problems, truckers and other diesel engine users say that is not the likely outcome for biodiesel.

However, Bill and Karolyn Zurn of Calloway told Agweek that biodiesel works and is good for the state’s agriculture industry.

Karolyn Zurn said the Minnesota Soybean Growers association took the opposition seriously when lawmakers debated the issue earlier this year. The association added part-time lobbyists during the legislative session in its effort to get “B10” approved.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.