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Minnesota leads way in biodiesel use

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As chairman of the Minnesota House Agriculture, Rural Economies and Veterans Affairs Finance Committee, I am committed to promoting sound legislation that will energize our rural economy. I also agree with the majority of Minnesotans that we must reduce our dependence on foreign sources of oil, and am a strong advocate for the use and production of renewable fuels.

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Last year, I was proud to be the chief author of the biodiesel initiative -- making Minnesota the first state in the nation to establish a 20 percent biodiesel standard by 2015. This legislation passed with the broad bipartisan support in the Legislature and Gov. Tim Pawlenty, as well as the support of farm groups and the Minnesota Truckers Association, in part because they recognize it will save them money.

As of May 1, the first step toward this initiative was enacted: all diesel fuels in our state are now required to increase from 2percent to 5 percent biodiesel.

Unfortunately, there have been reports of traveling salesmen from other states contacting our Minnesota automobile repair shops, questioning the quality of this B5 product in the winter, and trying to sell fuel additives.

According to officials at the Minnesotan Department of Agriculture, there is no documentation that diesel fuel with an additional 3 percent of biodiesel will behave any differently than what is currently being used. As usual, there are always shysters out there trying to get your money.

In order to have a smooth transition over the next few years to the full 20 percent standard, our state agencies are addressing issues that may arise by engaging the knowledge of public and private experts.

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture and the Department of Commerce have been working with diesel experts and consumers to ensure we have biodiesel blends in our state that perform at the highest levels. The hard work from both public and private stakeholders has improved the quality of biodiesels in the market dramatically.

They also created a Biodiesel Blend Handling Guide, found on the Department of Agriculture's Web site: http://www.mda.state.mn.us/, listed under "latest news." It includes tips on storage, blending and handling of diesel fuel, and the cleaning and maintenance of storage vessels and the diagnosis of filter plugging problems.

I encourage anyone who has questions about this biodiesel initiative and its impact on diesel fuel to consult this handbook.

Minnesota is proud to be the national leader in sustainable biofuels development and use. We have come to realize that it is much better to purchase local homegrown energy than it is to send dollars out of our state. We do indeed have a bright renewable energy future ahead of us.

Al Juhnke, DFL-Willmar, is a member of the Minnesota House and chairman of the House Agriculture, Rural Economics and Veterans Affairs Finance Committee.

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