Bill aims to make E15 Minnesota’s standard gasoline blend

By Erin Voegele | February 17, 2021

The Minnesota Senate’s Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development Finance and Policy held a hearing on Feb. 17 to consider SF 944, a bill introduced on Feb. 11 that aims to boost the minimum biofuel content in gasoline to 15 percent.  

The bill, introduced by Minnesota Sens. Torrey Westrom and Julie Rosen, proposes to increase the state’s biofuel standard from 10 percent to 15 percent, making E15 the new blend of regular gasoline in Minnesota.  Exemptions are provided for certain applications, including fuel supplied for use in airports, resorts, marina, houseboat rental companies, motor sports racing, collector vehicles and off-road use.

Chris Hanson, general manager of Poet’s biorefinery in Preston, Minnesota, testified in support of the legislation. Hanson, who recently served on the Governor’s Council on Biofuels, highlighted the positive impacts E15 will have on the state’s economy and environment, including the many long-term benefits for Minnesota consumers and family farmers.

“Not only can E15 protect consumers from unpredictable spikes in the price of foreign oil, it can help free farmers from uncertain assistance from Washington,” Hanson told lawmakers. “Predictable demand growth for E15 would also support thousands of good-paying bio-manufacturing jobs, attract new capital investment for plant construction, improvements, and equipment, and generate additional tax revenues in rural communities across our state.”

Ron Lamberty, senior vice president at the American Coalition for Ethanol, also offered testimony during the hearing. His testimony focused on clearing up misconceptions about equipment needed to sell E15, particularly underground storage tanks, lines and pipe dope. “One of the products we have been encouraging station owners to offer is E15,” Lamberty said. “You’re all familiar with E15, and as you’ve been gathering information on this proposed legislation, you’re becoming familiar with one of the major points of resistance from station owners, and that is incorrect information about the cost of adding E15.” 

Lamberty explained how many retailers have E15 compatible equipment and could sell it tomorrow without a big investment but are unaware because they’ve been told by the petroleum industry it’s impossible for most stations to offer E15, and could only do so after very expensive equipment upgrades. In order to correct this misinformation, ACE created an online E15 equipment compatibility tool called Flex Check to provide retailers with a simple way to check their own equipment against a database of equipment UL listing and manufacturer’s warranty statements gathered from National Renewable Energy Lab studies, Petroleum Equipment Institute compatibility information, and ACE’s own research with equipment companies. Retailers can enter the manufacturer or model number of their tanks, piping, and other equipment, and find out if they are already E15 compatible. Lamberty said some station owners may be able to download documentation they need to prove compatibility to EPA and state regulators, while others will at the very least be able to identify parts of their system that actually need to be upgraded.

Jeff Broin, found and CEO of Poet, has spoken out in support of the bill. “We applaud Minnesota’s leaders for taking bipartisan action on E15,” he said. “Statewide E15 would boost farm incomes across Minnesota, growing a dependable market for grain and supporting the state’s green economy while having a significant impact on climate change.”

The Minnesota Corn Growers Association called SF 944 a top legislative priority. “The Minnesota Corn Growers Association would like to thank Senator Westrom for his continued support of biofuels and increasing our state’s biofuels standard to 15 percent,” said Tim Waibel, president of the MCGA. “Higher blends of ethanol in our fuel supply benefit, not only corn farmers and our rural communities, but all Minnesotans. E15 provides consumers with a higher octane fuel at a lower price all while significantly reducing tailpipe emissions.” 

The Biotechnology Innovation Organization and Minnesota Soybean Growers Association are also advocating in support of the bill.

“SF 944 legislation builds on years of Minnesota’s commitment to supporting North Star State farmers, promoting rural economic development, and reducing carbon emissions,” wrote Gene Harrington, director of state government affairs, food and agriculture at BIO, in a letter to Westrom. “In 2003, Minnesota became the first state to require E10 gasoline. More recently, the Governor’s Council on Biofuels in early November of 2020 issued a consensus document outlining findings and recommendations that states, “moving from a 10 to 15 percent ethanol minimum content standard is a near term policy priority to accelerate progress toward the Petroleum Displacement Goal of 25 percent biofuel use in gasoline by 2030.”

Jamie Beyer, president of the MSGA, also sent a letter to the committee in support of SF 944. “Most of Minnesota’s soybean farmers are also corn farmers; as proponents of the renewable fuels industry, we wish to express our full support for the Minnesota Corn Growers Association’s efforts to increase Minnesota’s existing biofuel standard from 10 to 15 percent,” Beyer wrote. “By increasing the ethanol standard to 15 percent, Minnesota once again has a unique opportunity to remain at the forefront of the nation’s biofuels policy. The move to E-15 would make Minnesota the first state in the country to embrace this standard, just like we were the first state to require ethanol-blended fuels nearly a quarter-century ago.”

Additional information, including a full copy of the bill, is available on the Minnesota Legislature website