Minnesotans want clean air and water for future generations. From 1988 when they voted to amend the state Constitution to establish the Environmental & Natural Resources Trust Fund to 1998 with the creation of the Nongame Wildlife Checkoff, Minnesotans have a rich tradition of environmental protection. In 2012 alone, Minnesota residents contributed just over $1 million to the nongame wildlife fund.
So it makes sense that Minnesota would be the first state to mandate the use of B10 diesel blends throughout the summer months.
Reading through recent commentaries in the news about renewable energy there seems to be a lot of misinformation circulating regarding the use of biodiesel at a 10 percent level (B10), which is currently mandated in Minnesota during the summer months. I'd like to address three of the common "Biodiesel Myths."
Myth 1: Biodiesel doesn't require these mandates to be successful.
Historically speaking, even the burgeoning U.S. petroleum industry required government intervention to gain necessary production capacity. In fact, many of these benefits have yet to be phased out and are simply part of the laws of the land that are automatically renewed over time.
Changes in the fueling infrastructure are costly. Although including renewable choices is in the best interest of the general public, even the most civic minded fuel supplier might pause before undertaking such a costly venture — especially when doing so may jeopardize relationships with their petroleum suppliers.
Biodiesel cannot become a viable alternative fuel source if it is not widely available. The establishment of a biodiesel percentage mandate as called for by the renewable fuel standard (RSF) in existing diesel helps encourage an increase in production capacity for biodiesel. It also spurs the necessary knowledge, acceptance and infrastructure changes required to welcome the more environmentally friendly fuel. Minnesota is leading the way in this respect with the first mandated inclusion of 10 percent biodiesel in all diesel sold in the state during the summer months and 5 percent during the rest of the year.
Myth 2: Biodiesel is a maintenance nightmare.
One of the biggest benefits of biodiesel is its ease of use. Biodiesel is the first fuel to be certified by the U.S. EPA as an advanced biofuel. Biodiesel, which conforms to the ASTM D6751 standard, can be used in vehicles manufactured after 1994 without modification. Vehicles manufactured in or before 1993, which still retain their original rubber hoses and lines, will require compatible replacements. Not only are biodiesel blends safe for use, they may actually increase the lifetime of the engine. The added lubricity and solvent capabilities of biodiesel allow for a cleaner engine with less wear. The solvent capabilities are as such that, with the first use of a biodiesel blend, the fuel will actually clean out the petroleum deposits from your tank and engine. This cleaning effect initially may require more frequent filter replacement but will quickly return to a normal schedule.
Myth 3: It is just too cold to use B10 during the spring and fall.
Anyone who has used a diesel engine in the winter months knows that diesel fuel will gel in colder temperatures unless additives are used. The cold weather characteristics of both petroleum and biodiesel can vary widely depending on the manufacturing practices and, in the case of biodiesel, the feed stock. However, a reported average 5 degrees Fahrenheit cloud point of B10 made with soy biodiesel is well below the lowest average daily temperature in Minnesota in April (24 degrees Fahrenheit) and September (40 degrees Fahrenheit). In addition, just like petroleum diesel, biodiesel blends can be winterized to improve cold weather performance. Furthermore, since 2003, the city of Brooklyn Park has employed B20 biodiesel blends year round in its fleet vehicles without issue.
Petroleum is a finite resource. To protect access to it, wars have been and are being fought. Rather than using scare tactics and spreading misinformation, the trucking and auto industries should come forward and join biodiesel manufacturers in educating those using diesel how to best adjust to these changes. We want to be your partner in quickly opening up a whole new market to diesel vehicles; because these changes benefiting the environment are a benefit to us all.
Finally, everyone should carefully consider the stance that candidates have for the use and support of renewable energy in the 2016 elections and to make sure you vote to make your voice heard loud and clear. Minnesotans once again have the opportunity to lead. It is time to make renewable, domestically produced energy a priority.