Minnesota’s climate goals endangered by stubborn tailpipe pollution

Minnesota is lagging behind in cleaning up carbon pollution from vehicle tailpipes, even after passing clean car rules last year, according to state plans to reduce greenhouse gases.

Car, truck and SUV-led transportation is the number one source of heat-trapping pollution in Minnesota. This issue is looming in Thursday’s discussions by a group of supporters, researchers and government officials to revise the Minnesota Climate Behavior Framework.

This framework is still in the form of a draft, calling for changes in how communities are planned, land is cultivated, and electricity is generated. The plan aims to reduce carbon emissions and make the state more resilient to hotter and moist climates.

Some of the proposed changes proposed by the Working Group to review the plan could lead to even more stringent goals, such as the phasing out of fossil fuel use in the state.

But one of the most annoying parts of the framework is how to move people between home, work and leisure without the pollution that results from these fuels.

The framework requires a 30% reduction in greenhouse gases in transit by 2025 and an 80% reduction by 2050, in line with state law of 2007. However, the plan points out that emission reductions in the transport sector have been stagnant for the past six years.

“We already have the technology,” said Peter Wagenius, head of legislation for the Sierra Club’s North Star branch, so in addition to power generation, transportation should be the main focus.

“Investing in charging electric vehicles, investing in high-speed bus transportation, these should be prioritized,” Wagenius said.

Governor Tim Walz’s main efforts to reduce vehicle pollution are controversial. Last year, Waltz succeeded in passing the rules of clean cars, but they did not come into force until 2024, and the political battle over them led to the resignation of his highest pollution regulator.

The rule requires more electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids to be delivered to the state, but car dealers pushed back by filing a legal objection to the State Court of Appeals last week.

This framework also includes the intent of “increasing the use of clean fuels, including low carbon biofuels.”

Brian Crescher, chairman of the Minnesota Biofuels Association’s industry group, said fuels such as corn-based ethanol need to be included in future energy plans. He argued that new technologies would reduce carbon dioxide emissions from these fuels in the future.

“If we think it works without all the above solutions, we’re fooling ourselves,” Crescher said.

There is a significant disagreement in this regard. A group considering the transport section of the plan suggested that biofuels should only be used when electrification is not feasible, such as large vehicles. They also said that some members felt that these fuels could be used in existing vehicles and that “electrification should not be the only answer.”

Wagenius, part of the project’s Transport Working Group, said reliance on these fuels was a false solution.

“Frankly, the Waltz administration is outdated and climate planning should be an opportunity to let go of old ideas,” Warnius said, including his dependence on ethanol.

He also criticized the 80% emission reduction target for 2050, stating that the state should aim to eliminate emissions altogether by then.

In a statement, MPCA spokesman Darin Broton admitted that the state is not on track to cut 80%. “Ethanol is less carbon-intensive than gasoline, and biofuel production technology continues to evolve,” he wrote.

At the same time, the state has little time to reach its 2025 goal. Broughton admitted that Minnesota wasn’t on track to reach that goal either.

Jessica Hellmann, a professor and director of the University of Minnesota Institute for Environmental Studies, said the high goals are intended to stimulate change. She said action to reduce carbon pollution is good, even if the goal is not achieved.

But Hermann said the state framework needs to be more specific about what the state actually does to get there and what needs to happen first. Added.

“You can’t take action without a plan, but the plan is inadequate and can’t lead to the changes we need to see at the pace we need to see,” she said. “Plans may not send a strong enough signal to a company or industry.”

The climate framework will be completed by this summer.

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