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Minnesota Department of Agriculture retracts mention of clean fuel standard in grants announcement

(The Center Square) – Gas stations can apply for a new biofuels infrastructure grant if they invest in equipment that’s compatible with biofuels blended with at least 25% ethanol, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture announced Monday.

Up to $6.6 million will be available to offset investments in retail petroleum dispensers, fuel storage tanks and other equipment and their installation, the department’s news release said. The Agricultural Growth, Research, and Innovation (AGRI) Biofuels Infrastructure Grant Program will give grantees up to $199,000 per project. Applicants must apply for at least $5,000, and they must commit at least 35% of the project cost as a cash match.

Projects can take place over a three-year period, starting between June 2022 and June 2023. Retail petroleum dispensers with 10 or fewer sites are eligible. They must submit an application for each site for which they seek funding.

Businesses owned by women, veterans, or individuals of minority groups and projects that serve minority group communities, socio-economically disadvantaged communities, and communities with limited access to biofuels receive priority for the grants.

Minnesota legislators appropriated the funding for the AGRI Program, which administers grants to Minnesota farmers, agribusinesses, and schools and advances the state’s agricultural and renewable energy sectors. The Minnesota Corn Growers Association has provided $1 million in funding for the grants. Applications are due at 4 p.m. March 17.

“Encouraging stations to offer higher biofuels blends to customers is an immediate step we can take to lower carbon emissions,” Agriculture Commissioner Thom Petersen said. “It not only will help us meet Minnesota’s climate goals, but also strengthens our agricultural and rural economies, and the state’s as a whole.”

In a version of the news release the department retracted, the commissioner’s quote read as follows:

“Encouraging stations to offer higher biofuels blends to customers is an immediate step we can take to lower carbon emissions as part of meeting our Clean Fuel Standard [The Center Square’s emphasis],” Agriculture Commissioner Thom Petersen said. “It not only will help us meet Minnesota’s climate goals, but also strengthens our agricultural and rural economies, and the state’s as a whole.”

Department of Agriculture Communications Officer Larry Schumacher told The Center Square in an emailed statement Tuesday that Petersen intended to reference the Petroleum Replacement Goals and that Minnesota does not have a current Clean Fuel Standard.

Minnesota legislation includes the goal of having 30% of gasoline sold or offered for sale be biofuel.

In October 2021, Gov. Tim Walz asked state agencies to work with stakeholders to determine whether Minnesota should move forward on a Clean Fuel Standard. The goals include reducing transportation emissions, decreasing air and water pollution, and creating jobs.

Center of the American Experiment Energy and Environmental Policy Fellow Isaac Orr told The Center Square the governor should scrap the Clean Fuel Standard proposal.

“The problem with a California Fuels Standard is that it will greatly increase the cost of fuel for Minnesota drivers and the farmers that it is supposed to help,” Orr said. “According to Stillwater Associates, this policy increased the price of gasoline and diesel fuel by about 22 cents per gallon in 2020, which would increase the yearly costs by about $230 for each Minnesota household.”

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