As Minnesota has failed to meet its goal of a 15% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 to 2015, the Department of Transportation is aiming to crack down on what it says is the largest cause of pollution in the state: vehicles.

To this end, the Department of Transportation last week released a report, "Pathways to Decarbonizing Transportation," that calls for the creation of a Sustainable Transportation Advisory Council, taking a leadership role in regional collaboration on electric vehicle corridors and analyzing greenhouse gas emissions in transportation projects.

“Minnesotans are concerned about climate change and want to see meaningful action,” said Will Seuffert, executive director of the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board. “With the transportation sector now the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the state, this report lays an important foundation for advancing low-carbon transportation options.”

The report calls for the creation of clean car standards and expansion of biofuels infrastructure. The latter posing a challenge as many are expressing alarm by the number of waivers being issued by the Environmental Protection Agency exempting them from biofuel requirements.

In a letter dated Sept. 20, 25 members of Congress, including Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson, called on the EPA "to stop the practice of rubber-stamping small refinery exemptions which are hurting farmers during one of the worst rural economic times in recent history."

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The letter further stated that since early 2018, EPA had granted 85 blending exemptions to refineries which equals more than 4 billion ethanol-equivalent gallons of renewable fuel being taken out of the marketplace. These conditions have caused three ethanol facilities to close permanently and another 14 to idle, affecting nearly 3,000 jobs and hundreds of millions of corn bushels on an annual basis, according to the letter.

The Department of Transportation's report takes a multifaceted approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions with the goal of getting Minnesota back on track to its goals, which were passed in 2007 and encapsulated in the Next Generation Energy Act. The next benchmark is a 30% reduction in emissions by 2025, as compared to 2005.

“Decarbonizing transportation in Minnesota will capitalize on the state’s resource base, history of technology innovation and extraordinary market momentum toward cleaner mobility options,” said Rolf Nordstrom, president and CEO at the Great Plains Institute. “The report reflects the desire of residents across Minnesota for clean transportation, including building electric vehicle infrastructure and bolstering biofuels. Both rural and urban Minnesotans will see economic opportunity in this report.”