Bioenergy, Project Development

Minnesota Law Endorses Plug-in Hybrid, Flexible-Fueled Vehicles

Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty has signed into law H.F. 3718, the nation’s first law promoting plug-in hybrid, flexible-fueled vehicles.

The legislation — inspired by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance’s (ILSR) report “A Better Way” that proposed an electricity-alcohol transportation energy strategy, and several articles by ILSR staff published in the Minneapolis Star Tribune in late 2005 — sailed through both houses by a unanimous vote. “Both conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats understand that this is the only near-term strategy available that can cure us of our oil addiction,” said David Morris, ILSR’s Vice President, who testified as an expert witness before six legislative committees. The law instructs the state to buy plug-in hybrids on a preferred basis when they become available. It also encourages Minnesota State University-Mankato to develop flex-fuel plug-in hybrid vehicles, and creates a task force consisting of business, government and utility representatives to develop a strategy for using and producing such vehicles in Minnesota. A plug-in hybrid can run primarily on electricity, which inherently reduces oil consumption. “Only three percent of our electricity is generated from oil,” Morris observed, “and many states are requiring an increasing percentage of renewable electricity.” Renewable fuels like ethanol would provide the primary energy source for the vehicle’s engine. “Minnesota has the resources necessary to make flexible-fuel plug-in hybrid production a reality,” said Frank Hornstein, the bill’s chief House author. “We have the research at Minnesota State-Mankato. We have the corn and ethanol industry. We have a growing number of wind farms. And we have the Ford plant.” “Ford has said it will close the plant. The task force can help us develop new opportunities,” notes Scott Dibble, the bill’s chief Senate author. “We could have a technology developed in Minnesota and built at the Ford Plant, which already runs on renewable energy generated at the plant’s hydroelectric dam on the Mississippi River.”