State needs to continue leading the way toward renewable energy use
Irving Berlin, the man who brought us "White Christmas" and other beloved tunes, once said "the toughest thing about success is that you've got to keep on being a success." This sentiment summarizes Governor Tim Pawlenty's message in his recent S...
Irving Berlin, the man who brought us "White Christmas" and other beloved tunes, once said "the toughest thing about success is that you've got to keep on being a success." This sentiment summarizes Governor Tim Pawlenty's message in his recent State of the State Address.
Minnesota has a proud legacy of leadership and innovation in many fields, including agriculture. But as the Governor said, we need to keep pushing ourselves if we want to maintain and build our economy, our environment, and our quality of life. After all, success does not belong to the swift, but to the persistent.
What does that mean for agricultural policy in Minnesota? It means helping livestock producers boost their competitive ability through efforts such as the Beef Profitability Task Force. It means tirelessly promoting Minnesota-grown agricultural products at home and abroad. It also means pushing ahead in our decades-long drive to achieve the full potential of home-grown, renewable fuels.
In his address, Governor Pawlenty called for gradually increasing our biodiesel requirement from the current 2 percent up to 20 percent by the year 2015. He also called for investments in new energy technologies at the community level. These plans build on existing efforts, including the work of the Next-Generation Energy Board.
Some observers may have expected a shift away from talk about renewable fuels. After all, we have seen report after report telling us corn-based ethanol is an imperfect fuel that will not solve our energy problems.
The dramatic tone of these reports and the ensuing media coverage is a bit puzzling. Even the most ardent ethanol supporters do not claim it is the ultimate solution to America's looming energy crisis. Instead, what I've heard is a two-part message. First, biodiesel and ethanol have made valuable contributions to our rural economy, air quality, and energy security. Second, as impressive as these contributions have been, we are not satisfied with the status quo. We are pursuing the next generation of renewable fuels, which promise even greater environmental and economic benefits.
The reality is that Minnesota could never have been in a position to lead a charge to bigger and better things if we had not had the vision to start by building up a solid foundation in the form of our current renewable fuels sector. Having created the foundation, it would be unfortunate if we gave up before reaching the big payoff. As Governor Pawlenty pointed out, if we do not keep pushing ahead in this field, we resign ourselves to an increasingly risky reliance on foreign energy. And if we wait for someone else someplace else to come up with the break-through technologies, we will reap a far smaller share of the economic benefits sure to come from such advances.
We can argue about the benefits and costs of our existing renewable fuels, or we can see them as the necessary first step toward even better things ahead. We can focus on the imperfections of yesterday's first-generation renewable fuels, or we can look ahead to tomorrow's promising renewable energy sources. As the Governor made clear, Minnesota has much to gain by making the right choice and sustaining the drive forward.