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March, 2005 - SMAC in the News

U.S. Senator discusses renewable fuel prospects: Minnesota Senate recently passed a bill that will require a 20 percent ethanol blend in gasoline

John Rickgarn

United States Senator Norm Coleman participated in a public forum on the prospects of renewable fuels such as ethanol, biodiesel, windpower and biomass at the Marshall Municipal Utilities Office on Friday, March 4. He was joined by citizens of Minnesota, corn and soybean growers, wind energy farmers, a farmer who operates his dairy on biomass and Southwest Minnesota State University's Dr. Michael Rich.

The purpose of the forum was to educate the public on the potential for renewables in Minnesota, as well as nationwide. Currently, Minnesota is the only state that requires a ten percent ethanol blend in gasoline. Now, a bill just passed in the Minnesota Senate will require a twenty-percent ethanol blend in gasoline by Jan. 1, 2012. The bill is expected to pass in the House as well as get signed into law by the Governor.

“It's essential that we wean our dependence from the Middle East,“ said Gene Hugoson, who serves on Governor Tim Pawlenty's cabinet as commissioner of the Department of Agriculture.

The reason for the seven-year delay is to work through the technical situations. The Environmental Protection Agency must approve a new fuel bled based on emission standards, and automobile manufacturers are worried how their engines will take the new blend. They may have to change their warranties.

“Ten years ago, the manufacturers told us E-10 couldn't be done. Well, it can,“ said Hugoson.

Professor Michael Rich presented one of Southwest Marketing Advisory Center's projects which looked at alternative sources of fuel and energy. The SMAC is an organization that looks into various marketing projects for local government agencies as well as commercial organizations.

With the help of several SMSU marketing students, the team put together a comprehensive list of renewables grouped into oils, grains, co-products (such as biomass and methane) and environmental.

Rich outlines the major problems that prevented these alternatives from being used today.

“There's a long road to market for these fuels,“ said Rich.

Rich also stressed that the fuels had to be established in the public's eye, just as ethanol and biodiesel are now.

Afterwards, Coleman and others took questions from many members of the audience, who had packed the room to see the presentation.

“I thought this was a great forum,“ said Coleman. “I feel more energized about the possibility of renewables.“

Coleman believed that the possibility of renewables help promise for college students at SMSU.

“First, we all care about the environment. Second, when you get out and have student loans to pay back, renewables will create job opportunities in rural areas, where many will want to stay. And quite simply, it saves money out of your pocket for gas,“ Coleman said.

“The future of America is in renewables,“ said Coleman.

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