An intriguing idea for limiting carbon emissions in Minnesota is making its way to the Legislature with bipartisan support. It’s a sign that we’re starting to take climate change seriously.

The idea would be not to necessarily mandate more electric vehicles, but to require fuels for all vehicles to have lower carbon levels, and set up incentives for businesses and consumers to achieve those carbon levels.

The proposal involves promoting and incentivizing fuels like E85 (85 percent ethanol for flex fuel vehicles); E15, the fuel that contains 15 percent cleaner burning ethanol; and biodiesel. The low carbon standard would measure the carbon output that it takes to produce each fuel, including the production of corn for ethanol, and then require the carbon “intensity” with each fuel, including electricity, be lowered by 20 percent by 2035, according to a report in MinnPost.

The transportation sector is the biggest contributor to greenhouse gases in Minnesota and elsewhere. California, Oregon and Washington have already implemented similar laws, according to the MinnPost report.

And the plan also calls for a carbon trading system in that if one fuel producer could not meet its reduction goals, it would have to buy “credits” from others to meet the standard.

Republicans and Democrats in the Minnesota Legislature favor the legislation as do electric vehicle promoters and farmers producing ethanol. Sen. Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, is the sponsor of the bill in the Senate and Rep. Todd Lippert, D-Northfield, in the House. Others supporting the legislation include the American Coalition for Ethanol, General Motors and the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Experts at the Great Plains Institute, which helped develop the policy, also note the policy is “technology” neutral, in that it doesn’t favor traditional vehicles or electric vehicles, but encourages reduction in carbon in the life cycles of all fuels.

The bill was up for discussion during the 2021 Legislature but did not pass as lawmakers were tied up with the state budget and pandemic policies. But Senjem said he would introduce the bill next year.

Creating a carbon fuels standard makes sense from environmental, economic and political perspectives. It creates incentives for lowering greenhouse gas emissions from major contributors to them in the transportation sector.

We urge legislators of both parties to support the plan and make it happen. We can’t afford to send more carbon into the atmosphere that fuels natural disasters and the billions in cost they bring.

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