The worst may be over for the ethanol industry as production in Minnesota and other parts of the country begin to approach pre-pandemic numbers. But it would be a mistake for anyone to believe the industry is back on a sound footing.
When traffic volumes plunged in April and May, ethanol production throughout the country fell to unforeseen levels with many plants idling production while others reduced output by 50 percent.
That is why it is imperative for the Senate to include the financial aid package for the ethanol industry that was introduced by Sen. Chuck Grassley and Sen. Amy Klobuchar in the next COVID-19 relief bill.
While this aid package is much needed for the short-term to stabilize the industry in this turbulent time, there are several measures that can be adopted at the state level to rebuild and regrow the ethanol industry for the medium and long-term.
Moreover, these measures would grow the economy, retain jobs in the ethanol industry and significantly cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the transportation sector.
One way is to boost the use of E15. State vehicle fleets should be able to have access to, and use, E15 and E85. As more fleets use E15 and E85, these renewable fuels will gain even greater acceptance and become the new standards.
The second measure is focused on the use mid-level blends in non-flex fuel vehicles. The Walz Administration could set up a task force to identify the next steps to obtain data required by the EPA to certify a mid-level blend fuel for use in non-flex fuel vehicles and obtain certification.
Biofuel infrastructure should also be a high priority to give Minnesotans greater access to renewable fuels.
This can be done through creative funding options to help fuel retailers transition to E15 and higher blends. With 370 fuel retailers in the state already offering E15, we should focus on bringing another 290 retailers online.