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Column: Biodiesel a long-term solution to energy needs

By RON MARR, Minnesota Soybean Processors

BREWSTER — The idea of blending biodiesel into diesel fuel is not new in Minnesota. The law that requires a minimum of 10 percent biodiesel that started July 1 isn’t new, either. The original law was passed in 2008 — largely through the efforts of biodiesel stakeholders, the agriculture sector and even the trucking industry — to support local economies with a renewable replacement for diesel fuel. And the state has had a minimum blend of biodiesel for more than a decade, starting with B2 in 2002.

Because it was a big change — from a single fuel source in petroleum diesel — the law was written to be implemented in steps. Much care was given to ensure all the benefits of biodiesel could be achieved without adversely affecting Minnesota consumers or industries.

One of the biggest benefits of including biodiesel in Minnesota’s diesel supply is the impact on the economy. Here in Brewster at Minnesota Soybean Processors, we employ 80 to 85 people full time with more than $6.5 million in payroll and benefits paid out annually. We also bring in an estimated $500 million in annual revenue to our local area — much of that through the daily stream of trucks bringing raw materials into and finished product out of our production facility. And that’s just the direct local impact. Big-picture, the biodiesel industry supports more than 62,000 jobs while replacing more than a billion gallons of petroleum diesel a year. These are good American jobs that can’t be sent overseas. As a biodiesel producer, we hope American truckers and all Minnesotans can support an American made fuel.

I’m proud our state continues to be a leader in fuel policies that not only bring more domestic renewable fuel to the market, but also help diversify our transportation fuel options. Looking at the long-term price of fuel in our state and country, we must look for other viable options to petroleum. Being dependent on a single-fuel source being traded globally leaves us vulnerable to price shocks from any number of incidences outside our borders and outside our control.

The only answer — which is what state and federal policies are gradually accomplishing — is to do what the electricity markets have smartly done: diversify our supply of fuels. Coal, natural gas, nuclear, hydro, geothermal, wind, solar and biomass all fuel our power plants, making our electricity prices stable and more affordable. Doesn’t it make sense to do the same in the transportation fuels market?

By nurturing a renewable fuels industry in the U.S., we provide competition in the marketplace to keep prices down. Not only do we become less dependent on foreign oil, we become less dependent on any singular fuel source. And in the process, we improve the air we breathe while creating good jobs here at home.

Biodiesel is a proven fuel with fleet users like the state Department of Natural Resources utilizing various biodiesel blends up to 20 percent without incident for years. Their nearly 1,200 on- and off-road vehicles have performed without any performance or maintenance issues, and fleet manager Dave Schiller recently said he doesn’t anticipate any problems with the entire fleet moving to B10.

The bottom line is the biodiesel industry is an American success story that stakeholders in Minnesota had the long-term vision to see more than 10 years ago. That vision has led us to where we are today, and will continue to move us towards a more secure, energy-stable America.

Ron Marr is the manager of biodiesel at Minnesota Soybean Processors, Brewster.