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Building on Minnesota biofuels

June 9, 2011
By Doug Root , Marshall Independent

AURI?senior scientist

Few things cause people more angst on a regular basis than pulling their vehicle up to the fuel pump for a fill.

High prices have negatively impacted nearly everyone's budget as gasoline prices approached or topped four dollars a gallon. Even though prices have slowly dropped in recent weeks, most of us know that high energy costs are likely to be with us for the long haul.

While high petroleum prices are generally unwelcome, they do again draw people's focus to the pursuit of alternative energy sources. It should come as no surprise that Minnesota is heavily involved in the production of biofuels and in the development of new energy possibilities.

Biofuels are not only tools for creating alternative energy; they are also economic development drivers.

Most ethanol and biodiesel plants are in rural areas, creating jobs and economic activity in and around the communities where they are established. On a recent trip to an Iowa biofuels plant, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack reiterated support for current federal programs for biofuels and rural economic development.

Minnesota's biofuels industry has been a national leader and continues to be a source for innovation and advancement. EverCat Fuels in Isanti has developed a novel process for producing biodiesel. Agri-Energy of Luverne is being converted from an ethanol plant to a biobutanol facility, ushering in the next generation of biofuel possibilities.

While Minnesota may have a bit of a leg up on some other states when it comes to biofuels development, there is interest and activity taking place nationwide. Biodiesel and "green diesel" are focuses of the American Oilseed Chemists Society, a group made up of scientists and researchers from around the world.

Oregon has joined Minnesota as the second state requiring the use of biodiesel blends in their on-road fuels and Pennsylvania recently followed as the third state to require biodiesel in on-road fuels.

One of the best venues to discover what is happening in Minnesota's renewable energy industry is to participate in the Renewable Energy Roundtable. Facilitated by AURI but comprised of representatives of more than 200 organizations including universities, state agencies and more, the Roundtable brings together the resources and expertise of people who are committed to moving Minnesota's renewable energy industry forward.

The next Roundtable gathering takes place June 17 at MinnWest Technology Campus in Willmar.

For more information on this or innovative agriculture topics, give us a call at the AURI Marshall office at 507-537-7440 or visit us online at



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