Renewable fuels have been a true win-win for Minnesota — providing lower-cost, environmentally friendly choices for consumers while helping farmers develop new markets for the crops that power biofuels.

On May 8, President Donald Trump announced plans to lift outdated regulations that are destroying demand for millions of gallons of homegrown biofuels. For years, antiquated and unnecessary regulations on Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) have forced 15 percent ethanol blends (E15) off the market each summer. The rules were drafted long before lower-cost E15 was introduced, resulting in standards that restrict E15 while allowing less eco-friendly options to be sold all year.

A fix cannot come soon enough — for farmers, for biofuel producers or for drivers who prefer to save money while supporting clean air and American jobs.

Lifting the regulation also would mean millions of dollars in savings for gas station operators, who are forced to retool their product selection twice each year to offer E15. That savings would pile up fast in Minnesota, which is home to more E15 fueling stations than any other state — including Iowa.

Recently, more than 100 business and farm leaders across seven Midwest states, including several from Minnesota, rallied behind an E15 fix. In a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, they reminded regulators that “with farm income falling from $123.8 billion in 2013 to $59.5 billion in 2018, those at the heart of this economic engine are less able to invest in fertilizer, agricultural equipment and other resources — a trend that could threaten new business opportunities well beyond farm communities. New markets for American-made biofuels promise to rejuvenate growth.”

I am joining those voices to request that the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency work quickly to implement the president’s pledge and restore growth opportunities for homegrown energy.

At a time when foreign nations are imposing unfair trade barriers on the U.S. agricultural sector and farm income has fallen to a 12-year low, there’s no time to wait. The plunge in farm income has left too many families struggling. History shows that the ripple effect of an agricultural decline won’t be limited to rural communities. The positive consequences have not changed for 25 years. Allowing year-round E15 will add value to our homegrown products, improve our air quality and mean more jobs for rural Minnesota. The time for action is now.

In Minnesota, renewable biofuels have been an economic anchor, supplying jobs and creating a vital revenue stream for farmers. Biofuel plants have become vital pillars of economic stability. Expanding ethanol markets and allowing the year-round sale of E15 will deliver a much-needed jolt to rural economies here and across the U.S.

Now is the time to move forward with year-round E15.

 

Steve Sviggum is a member of the University of Minnesota Board of Regents and a former speaker of the Minnesota House.