Guest opinion: Ethanol must embrace a low-carbon future

Source: By Jeff Oestmann, The Globe • Posted: Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Many may not know, but Minnesota’s ethanol industry is the third largest in the United States and is responsible for purchasing and beginning the value-added processing of over half of the corn crop produced in the state.

As the world continues to focus on ways to reduce emissions from all aspects of our economy and utilize more renewable energy resources in the process, it is critical that Minnesota’s ethanol industry take the necessary steps to ensure that biofuels like ethanol remain a viable low-carbon solution and competitive in that marketplace in the years and decades to come.

Our facility at Granite Falls is committed to reducing our carbon emissions 70% by 2030 and capable of producing net zero, or even carbon-negative ethanol by 2050 or sooner. Many factors have gone into our plant’s decision and several factors are being weighed as to how we will achieve this enormous task. With other low-carbon options emerging, such as electric vehicles, challenges like small refinery waivers, and the ongoing issues associated with the pandemic, we needed to choose the right course that would enhance our plant’s long-term viability and ensure we can continue to access critical marketplaces.

At the end of our analysis, Summit Carbon Solutions was a clear choice in carbon capture and storage technology that we are confident will advance our low-carbon goals. We appreciate Summit’s agricultural background and consider their experience an instrumental piece of their long-term commitment to bolster the ethanol industry and thereby support the rural agricultural economy of Minnesota through carbon sequestration.

Once the project is operational, Granite Falls Energy will see an immediate 30-point reduction in our carbon intensity score. This reduction in our carbon score will enable us to sell ethanol for a premium in the growing number of states and countries that have adopted low-carbon fuel standards.

In addition, this project will have a substantial economic impact on the state of Minnesota.

Local communities along the project route will receive an influx of new annual property taxes paid by Summit Carbon Solutions. This new source of these tax dollars will allow those counties and communities to strengthen schools, roads, hospitals, and other projects important to its citizens. Further, Summit has been and will continue to be, a partner at many local fairs and community events, and continue to host community open houses to foster open communication and address questions surrounding this project.

We know that agriculture is the lifeblood and the livelihood for many Minnesotans, and ethanol has played a critical role over the last decade or two in enhancing that way of life. We at Granite Falls Energy want to see our industry continue to thrive even as the energy market changes before our eyes. We know the future is low-carbon, and we are ready to embrace the opportunity for the ethanol industry to play a key role for years and decades to come.

Our plants support approximately 100 jobs between Granite Falls Energy and Heron Lake BioEnergy; and purchases millions of bushels of corn from local farmers in Minnesota. As the CEO of both plants, I sincerely hope the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission chooses to support our partnership with Summit Carbon Solutions to help create a low-carbon future for all Minnesotans.

By Jeff Oestmann, CEO
Heron Lake BioEnegry and Granite Falls Energy