Pawlenty seeks more renewable energy

ST. PAUL -- Minnesota leads the nation in developing renewable fuel sources and now must "raise the bar again," Gov. Tim Pawlenty said Tuesday in unveiling a host of new energy proposals.

ST. PAUL -- Minnesota leads the nation in developing renewable fuel sources and now must "raise the bar again," Gov. Tim Pawlenty said Tuesday in unveiling a host of new energy proposals.

The initiatives, which received a friendly reception from many in the Legislature's Democratic majority, include an emphasis on promoting ethanol and other alternative fuels, cutting the state's energy consumption and addressing global warming concerns.

"When it comes to energy, let's not wait until the future," Pawlenty said in a speech at the Midwest Ag-Energy Network Summit in St. Paul. "Let's create our own future."

Pawlenty's Next Generation Energy Initiative calls for:

n Increasing the use of renewable energy sources.


n Conserving energy and reducing the use of fossil fuels.

n Reducing greenhouse gas emissions such as carbon.

In his speech to energy and agriculture officials and some state lawmakers, Pawlenty said Minnesota should see that 25 percent of electricity used in the state comes from renewable resources by 2025.

The Republican governor stopped short of calling for a mandate, which energy companies oppose, but said his proposal includes financial penalties for firms that don't comply.

"It does have some teeth," Pawlenty said during a later forum with Capitol reporters.

Already the state had a goal of 10 percent renewable electricity by 2015.

"That goal is too modest," Pawlenty said in what probably was his major energy speech prior to the legislative session beginning Jan. 3.

The governor also proposed expanding the number of so-called E85 fuel pumps to 1,800 in four years. Currently there are 300 pumps offering the fuel blend of 85 percent corn-based ethanol and 15 percent gasoline at stations across the state. That already is the most in the country by far.


In addition, he wants the state to cut its use of fossil-fuel energy, such as coal, 15 percent by 2015 and to develop a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming.

The governor, who soon begins his second term, also proposed that Minnesota provide financial incentives to speed the development of new forms of ethanol, including those made from cellulose in plants. That could be corn stalks, wood, grass or other plants.

Pawlenty's initiatives surprised some Democratic lawmakers.

Prior to the announcement, Rep. Aaron Peterson of Madison said the governor should push for a stricter renewable energy standard deadline of 2020. However, after Pawlenty's speech, Peterson was receptive to the governor's proposal that one quarter of electricity used in Minnesota should come from renewable sources like wind energy by 2025.

"It has the potential to be very good, if it's structured right," Peterson said.

Minnesota shouldn't include in that 25 percent renewable energy generated elsewhere, like Canada, Peterson added.

Rep. Al Juhnke said Pawlenty is a "good cheerleader" for renewable energy and recognizes that many DFL'ers will seriously consider his proposals.

Juhnke, DFL-Willmar, is the incoming chairman of the House Agriculture, Rural Economies and Veterans Affairs Division. The committee will evaluate the governor's proposal, but Democrats will probably want some changes, he said.


"We're close," Juhnke said.

Forum Communications reporter Don Davis contributed to this article.

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