Gov. Walz touts ethanol production

Source: By Noah Fish, Forum News Service • Posted: Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz was in southern Minnesota to discuss ethanol production and how it would differ from the last four years.

Walz stopped at the POET Biorefining facility on Oct. 24. The plant in Preston employs around 40 workers and takes in approximately 16 million bushels of corn from the area each year, according to its website.

The governor called himself a big supporter of the ethanol industry long before his 12 years in Congress and becoming the governor. He toured the site, which produces 46 million gallons of ethanol annually, with Chris Hanson, general manager of the plant.

The COVID-19 pandemic proved just how important ethanol producers were to the food and beverage industry, Hanson said. Plants collect C02 as a byproduct of ethanol production and sell it in large quantities to make products like beer and soda.

But Hanson said C02 supply is also critical to meat producers.

“Because the governor had ethanol plants on the critical infrastructure list, we were able to keep running and keep supplying them so they could provide food throughout the pandemic,” Hanson said.

Walz said ethanol is a “homegrown industry that Minnesota was one of the leaders in” as he toured the plant built more than 20 years ago.

“(The ethanol industry) creates market for our producers, creates jobs, reduces carbon emissions and gives us opportunities to save consumers money,” Walz said.

“We know we have to fight climate change, and we also know there’s going to be a bridge time as we move from fossil fuels into newer technologies,” Walz said. “Ethanol and biofuels are here to do that.”

The governor described it as “fighting the fight” to move away from fossil fuels, and that’s why as a member of Congress he pushed for the Renewable Fuel Standard to include more ethanol.

From 2016 to 2018 the Environmental Protection Agency granted 85 exemptions requiring the blend of at least 15 billion gallons of ethanol a year into the U.S. fuel supply. The exemptions, designed to help small refineries, accounted for approximately 4 billion gallons in lost biofuels demand.

“When they gave those exemptions to oil refineries, it meant we were burning more fossil fuels,” Walz said. “It set us backwards instead of moving us forward.”