A biodiesel initiative that moved forward this legislative session in Minnesota passed May 15, but not to the levels most farmers, and certainly one legislator, wanted to see.
Rep. Al Juhnke said the gutted biodiesel fuel promotion bill that was pushed through the Minnesota House of Representatives was another victory for corporate interests at the expense of the family farmers.
"(Opponents) listened to lobbyists and corporate interests instead of the interest of farmers," Juhnke said. "As a result, there's nothing left in the biodiesel bill but a minor requirement that state vehicles use biodiesel and a study. This bill could have been a shot in the arm for rural Minnesota. Now it's more like a punch in the gut."
The original language in the bill required statewide use of 2 percent biodiesel blends beginning in 2002 and 5 percent blends beginning in 2005. However, by the time the bill reached the floor of the House, it had been significantly altered to require biodiesel use in state-owned vehicles only, along with a study to be done by 2004.
Rep. Juhnke supported an effort to restore the bill's original language, but that attempt failed on a 57-74 vote after a two-hour debate on the House floor. A second proposal, to require dyed diesel fuel used in farm equipment to contain a 2 percent blend, was also rejected. A final effort, to insert a 2 percent blending requirement effective in 2003, also failed.
Juhnke said opponents to the biodiesel bill used the same types of claims during the debate over ethanol use --unsupported allegations about engine damage and cost increases. "Those charges have been proven false in regard to ethanol and they'll be proven untrue on biodiesel as well.
"I think all of us realize we need to start developing alternative sources of fuel. (The original bill) would have done that. It also would have laid the groundwork for a Minnesota-based biodiesel industry, creating a new market for soybean farmers and spurring new jobs and investment in Rural Minnesota."