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Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty signed one of his marquee initiatives for the 2005 legislative session -- a bill that will double the amount of ethanol in gasoline in Minnesota. Pawlenty first unveiled his proposal in September 2004 and it received strong bipartisan support in both the House and Senate.
"This bill strengthens our rural economy, improves our air quality and reduces our unhealthy dependence on foreign oil," Pawlenty said. "It also puts our state at the leading edge of a very promising industry. We truly are on our way to becoming the Saudi Arabia of renewable fuels."
Currently, Minnesota law requires all gasoline sold within the state to include 10 percent ethanol (E-10). That mandate has been in place since 1997.
Under the legislation signed by the governor, a new E-20 mandate would take effect in 2013 unless ethanol has already replaced 20 percent of the state's motor vehicle fuel by 2010.
Minnesota has North America's largest network of E-85 gas stations with approximately 130 stations. Roughly 120,000 Minnesotans now drive flexible fuel cars designed to burn either gasoline or E-85, a blend of 85 percent ethyl alcohol and 15 percent gasoline. E-85 is produced from the starch in agricultural products, primarily domestically produced corn. Growing corn actually removes CO2 from the atmosphere so that the total effect of using ethanol made from corn is a significant reduction in greenhouse emissions when compared to the use of petroleum-based fuels.
The state is also the nation's leader in the use of renewable fuels with highest renewable fuel use per capita in the nation and was the first state to require the use of ethanol in gasoline. Other states are beginning to follow suit. Last year Hawaii enacted a measure similar to Minnesota's mandate. The governor of Montana recently signed that state's new E-10 requirement into law. Through his leadership as Chairman of the Governors' Ethanol Coalition, Gov. Pawlenty is encouraging other states to join the movement.
"This legislation is a win for everybody," Minnesota Corn Growers Association president Gene Sandager said. "By increasing demand for ethanol, local farmers now have a larger market for what they produce right here in Minnesota. That's good for the entire state."
The ethanol industry provides jobs for more than 5,300 Minnesotans and pumps $1.3 billion into Minnesota's economy. There are 14 ethanol plants in Minnesota that produce more than 450 million gallons of ethanol every year, with two more plants currently under construction. Minnesota ranks fourth in the nation in production of fuel-grade ethanol, after Iowa, Illinois and Nebraska and the state's corn growers send approximately 15 percent of their crop to ethanol plants.
Increasing to a 20 percent blend could mean an economic impact of $1.58 billion and 6,157 jobs.
"Utilizing homegrown renewable fuels is good for our farmers, it's good for rural economic development, it's good for national security, and it's good for the environment," Pawlenty said. "I would much rather have the fuel in our cars come from the Midwest than from the Middle East."