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Walz creates Governor's Biofuels Council

Walz creates Governor's Biofuels Council Photo: KSTP

Updated: September 16, 2019 06:25 PM

Gov. Tim Walz has signed an executive order creating the Governor's Biofuels Council to advise him and his Cabinet on policy and budget proposals to help grow the Minnesota biofuel industry.

Walz's office announced the news Monday, saying recent action at the federal level has led to an increasing number of renewable fuel plants closing or idling production, including the Corn Plus ethanol plant in Winnebago.

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The announcement comes just as gas prices are going up because of an attack on refineries in Saudi Arabia, which could lead to opportunities to help Minnesota's struggling ethanol industry.

"As I drive around and look gas prices jump 20 cents because of drone strikes in Saudi Arabia," Gov. Walz said at a news conference on farm in McLeod County. "That will not happen on the Thalmann farm. That will not happen in Minnesota."

Brian Thalmann, a farmer and president of the Minnesota Corn Growers Association, says the ethanol industry faces multiple challenges.

"You can only operate at a loss for so long," he said. "The challenge in agriculture now is we're not only faced with wet weather we had, we have depressed markets, we have tariffs, we've got the ethanol exemptions."

The Trump administration has granted several oil refineries exemptions from having to include ethanol in their production.

The governor and the corn growers have asked the Trump administration to stop granting so many waivers which have cost the ethanol industry billions of gallons of production.

The council's job will be to create a report with recommendations on how to best expand the use of biofuels, increase the carbon efficiency of biofuels and implement biofuels as part of Minnesota's larger goal to reduce greenhouse gas production in the transportation sector.

"Minnesota farmers endure a lot of uncertainty when it comes to the weather and the economy. They shouldn't face that uncertainty from their government," said Walz in a statement. "The Governor's Biofuels Council demonstrates our commitment to supporting the agriculture and biofuels industries and seizing the opportunity to move Minnesota toward a cleaner, greener transportation sector."

The council will be made up of 15 members, including representatives of the agriculture, biofuels and transportation industries, as well as environmental and conservation groups. The order mandates the report be completed by November 2020.

Walz is also the chairperson of the Governors' Biofuels Coalition. Earlier this month, Walz and Republican South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, Vice Chair of the Coalition, sent a joint letter to President Donald Trump urging him to support farmers and renewable fuel producers.

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KSTP/Tom Hauser

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