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Column: Biodiesel gives the region a boost

By Scott Austin, CEO, Minnesota Soybean Processors

BREWSTER — As the CEO of Minnesota Soybean Processors in Brewster, I’ve witnessed firsthand the economic impact of the biodiesel industry in our area. With 87 employees and a 24/7 operation, we process more than 36 million bushels of soybeans each year, shipping our products across the U.S. and globally. As we’ve grown, so has the community around us in Nobles County.

The average commute for our team members is approximately 25 miles. Even in a  rural area, we are no different than employers in metropolitan areas: our wages and benefits must be competitive to attract top talent.

From auto parts to office supplies, to fuel and yes, even pizza, soybeans and biodiesel are paying dividends to many entrepreneurs in our area.

According to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, based on the 2016 biodiesel production of 74 million gallons, each 1 million gallons of biodiesel production contributes $22.8 million in statewide total economic output. The total economic output impact is estimated to $1.7 billion, with the total employment impact estimated at 5,397 jobs.

Dependable year round

Minnesota is a trailblazer in the production and use of biodiesel, a clean-burning, locally grown fuel that is produced with the oil portion of the soybean, leaving the protein for use by livestock and people. This makes it an ideal by-product, since the oil is often discarded.

As temperatures plummet, when it comes to the biodiesel fuel you put in your engine, rest assured it is as dependable as the wool coat you keep coming back to winter after winter.

Biodiesel blend in the winter months

The minimum requirement during the cold weather months (October through March) is only a 5 percent blend of biodiesel in No. 2 diesel. No. 1 diesel does not have a biodiesel requirement. During the coldest months of winter, No. 1 and No. 2 diesel are often blended in varying percentages to provide operability in these cold temperatures. This often results in biodiesel blends of only two to three percent.

Minnesota will set B20 or 20 percent biodiesel as the fuel standard beginning in the summer of 2018.

Biodiesel and engine warranties

Biodiesel can be used in existing diesel engines and fuel-injection equipment in blends up to 20 percent (B20) with little effect on operating performance. Use of biodiesel in and of itself does not void the parts and workmanship warranty of any vehicle or engine manufacturer. Today’s biodiesel meets stringent ASTM fuel specifications. The industry also has an accreditation program that provides additional quality assurance.

Better for the environment

The U.S. EPA recognizes biodiesel as the only advanced biofuel for its ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 50 percent. According to the American Lung Association of Minnesota (ALAMN), during the 10-year period with biodiesel as a fuel standard for Minnesota, a reduction of more than 7.4 billion pounds of carbon dioxide, which is equivalent to more than 3.7 million tons of carbon dioxide, has already been realized. Over that 10-year period, ALAMN estimates it is comparable to removing the emissions from 706,649 passenger vehicles or 17,998 railcars of coal.

Energy diversity. Cleaner air. Jobs. Biodiesel offers the promise of a better future for all Minnesotans.

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