Farmers, truckers at odds over new biodiesel rule

Biodiesel pump
A diesel fuel pump in Worthington, Minn., pictured on Dec. 23, 2009. The lapse of a federal subsidy could affect Minnesota's biodiesel mandate. Most diesel sold in the state must contain at least five percent biodiesel, a standard known as 'B5.'
MPR Photo/Mark Steil

Starting on Tuesday, most diesel fuel sold in Minnesota will contain 10 percent biodiesel, which is double the current portion. The move is opposed by the trucking industry but supported by soybean farmers -- who grow the raw material used to make the biodiesel.

The requirement is the latest step in Minnesota's push for more renewable fuels. Right now, the state requires a 5 percent biodiesel blend, but that will rise to 10 percent on July 1.

Minnesota Trucking Association President John Hausladen opposes any requirement to blend biodiesel, says biodiesel costs more than regular diesel, hurts truckers' competitiveness and gums up engines. He also believes state lawmakers unfairly exempted some industries like railroads from using the blend.

"If the legislature made exemptions to the mandate, it tells me they don't believe that it's reliable and that there is a risk," said Hausladen. "So our question is why does the trucking industry bear the risk when all these other industries don't."

Farm groups, on the other hand, say biodiesel helps them because it raises soybean prices, and Minnesota Soybean Growers Association President George Goblish says the fuel performs well in his trucks.

"I run four semi's on the road, and I've never had a stitch of problems," Goblish said.

The 10 percent requirement continues through September, when the biodiesel mandate will revert back to 5 percent for the cold weather months.

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