Report Uncovers Minnesota’s Biomass Mandate Failure

A new report concludes that the Minnesota biomass mandate, rather than jump-starting a new industry using new energy crops, has become little more than a very costly waste-to-energy program. David Morris, Vice President of the Minneapolis based Institute for Local Self-Reliance and author of Minnesota’s Biomass Mandate: An Assessment, was one of the initiators of the original 1994 mandate.

“It was a pioneering effort to encourage new energy crops and advanced energy conversion techniques,” Morris said. “Legislators knew that to achieve that goal would cost money, but agreed it was money well spent if it created a new homegrown industry.” The report notes that almost immediately lobbyists began to carve out exemptions for individual businesses that were using wastes as their feedstock and traditional technologies to generate power. In 1999, the legislature even allowed turkey manure, a commercial fertilizer, to receive handsome subsidies if it were instead converted into electricity. The result, according to Morris? As of May 2005, almost three years after the original biomass mandate was to have been fulfilled, less than 20 percent is operational. None of the currently proposed projects will use new or advanced technologies. Over 90 percent of the fuel will consist of waste wood or turkey manure. The cost to Xcel Energy’s electricity customers will be over $1.1 billion. “Such an expense might have been justified if we had proved that alfalfa could be used as a fuel, or that a new whole tree energy conversion process was economical,” says Morris, currently a member of a Congressionally created Committee that advises the U.S. Departments of Energy and Agriculture on biomass-related issues. “Instead it has become a billion dollar reward to aggressive corporate lobbyists.” Download the report at the following link below.

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