When it comes to meeting the energy needs of U.S. consumers, the focus in recent years has been on the increased utilization of what are known as renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind and biofuels. The shift has been to try and move away from national dependence on those fossil fuels, such as oil, natural gas and coal.
It was all discussed at Farmfest.
Among those participating in a forum addressing the future of renewable energy was U.S. Sen. Al Franken, who worked to craft the energy portion of the current farm bill proposal still awaiting approval.
According to Franken, the future of renewable energy is going to move beyond what we know today.
“Corn ethanol has been a good platform for the next generation of advanced biofuels,” said Franken, adding cellulosic ethanol is gaining a lot of ground.
The interest in renewable fuels should be increasing in Minnesota, said Mike Rothman, Minnesota Department of Commerce commissioner, because this is not a fossil fuel state.
“When it comes to fossil fuels we are energy dependent in this state,” said Rothman, adding that $12 billion annual expense could better serve the state if those dollars would remain here through the use of renewable resources. “The backbone of renewable energy is the farming community.”
The legislature has continued to push for the use of renewable energy in the state, as it works toward reaching the goal of meeting energy needs in the state through the use of more renewable fuel sources. In fact, the state mandate is to achieve reaching the point where 25 percent of the energy used comes from renewable resources by 2025.
“We are on pace to achieve that goal,” said Dave Frederickson, Minnesota Department of Agricul-ture commissioner.
According to Frederickson the state is very close to moving to a 15 percent ethanol fuel blend.
The legislature also moved toward additional use of solar power during this most recent legislative session by adopting a standard to have 1.5 percent of energy coming via solar power by 2020.
“Minnesota continues to go a long way in leading when it comes to renewable energy,” said Roth-man, adding that ought to continue as the state works closely with the ag industry to provide that energy.
While renewable energy has become the popular move, not all agree it is in the best interest of the state to solely focus on it.
“We need to be smart about renewable energy,” said Minnesota Rep. Mike Beard, who serves on the Huse energy policy committee.
Beard said research shows there is not enough renewable energy available to meet the baseload power needs of the state.
“One hundred years from now we are still going to be using hydrocarbon based sources to meet our energy needs,” said Beard.
Page 2 of 2 - Franken said the state and the nation both need to continue their commitment to use of renewable energy resources, adding investment in research can help to make those sources even more viable in the future.