Ron Lamberty, senior vice president of the American Coalition for Ethanol, said he understands why retailers are concerned about an E15 mandate.
However, he said he believes most of those retailers have equipment already compatible with E15.
“I want to assure everybody that the ethanol industry has no interest in putting E15 in tanks that are incompatible with it,” he said.
“That would be counterproductive for us. But, one of the most important things for people to understand, if they own a station, the equipment they have is compatible.”
Lamberty said when pump and tank standards were first adopted for ethanol blends, E15 was selected by EPA as a test fuel. That’s because Underwriters Laboratory standards for unleaded gasoline was up to 15% ethanol.
“Most of the pump manufacturers going back to 2008 have been warranting their dispensers for up to 15% alcohol because of that UL standard,” he said.
“Again, I would applaud you for taking on this thing and Minnesota has always been a leader. Just to reiterate the fact that I understand why retailers and marketers and station owners would be uncomfortable, but we want them to know that for the most part they probably don’t need to be uncomfortable.”
Tim Gross, executive director of the Minnesota Petroleum Marketers Association, said his group supports the “spirit of the bill” but has concerns retailers would be unable to comply with the mandate by 2022.
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency estimates there are about 3,500 retail facilities across the state, “and 85% or greater of those facilities cannot prove compatibility at this time,” Gross said.
Estimates from the three largest equipment providers in Minnesota, he said, show retailers would need to invest at least $771 million in infrastructure to comply with an E15 mandate.
In addition, Gross said retailers face a limited construction season in the state, a lack of enough service providers and equipment to meet a 2022 deadline.
HELPING FARM ECONOMY
Brian Thalmann, director of the Minnesota Corn Growers Association, told the committee passing the bill would help state farmers to recover from the economic swings of 2020.
“Somebody asked if our state has sufficient production of ethanol to meet this 15% standard,” he said.
“Absolutely yes we do. After the standard is enacted we will still be exporting over two-thirds of our ethanol to customers beyond Minnesota’s borders. The corn is already also being produced in Minnesota. The time is right. The time is now. We can do this.”
Chris Hanson, general manager of POET LLC’s ethanol plant in Preston, Minnesota, said a statewide E15 mandate would help consumers.
“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,” he said.
“Predictable demand growth for E15 would also support thousands of good-paying biomanufacturing jobs, attract new capital investment for plant construction, improvements, and equipment, and generate additional tax revenues in rural communities across our state.”
Last week, Iowa Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds announced a plan to require gasoline retailers to sell fuel with at least 10% ethanol and 11% biodiesel.
Iowa is the nation’s largest ethanol and biodiesel producer. A study by the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association showed the fuel mandate would generate demand to sell 117 million gallons more ethanol and 203 million gallons of biodiesel from 2022 to 2026. The plan would generate nearly $460 million in economic activity by 2026, the IRFA study stated.
Last year, the Minnesota Governor’s Council on Biofuels recommended Minnesota shift to E15 as “a near-term policy priority to accelerate progress toward the petroleum-replacement goal of 25% biofuel use in gasoline by 2030.”
Todd Neeley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow him on Twitter @toddneeleyDTN