Minnesota is making real progress on its path to cleaner vehicles, cleaner power and cleaner air, but you can be forgiven if you haven’t noticed. The changes occurring here are often gradual, seamless and don’t often make front-page news.
Let’s start with the vehicle emissions, the single largest source of air pollution in Minnesota. After decades of increases, Minnesotans driving distances have leveled off and even declined, according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation. This is happening while mass-transit operators are seeing double-digit increases in riders, and walking and biking programs are finding more participants.
Sales of cleaner-burning fuels like E85 are trending up, as the 300,000 or so Minnesotans who own a flex fuel vehicle are choosing a fuel that almost always costs less than regular unleaded. Other alternative fuels and vehicle technologies growing across the state include a small but growing number of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles; natural gas stations springing up in southern Minnesota; and a school system using propane instead of diesel in their school buses.
Speaking of diesel, Minnesota currently requires a 5 percent blend of biodiesel (B5); that percentage is expected to increase soon, resulting in even fewer tailpipe emissions from diesel vehicles.
Our power grid is getting cleaner, too. The percentage of coal used to generate electricity has been declining, as power utilities switch to natural gas or rely more on renewable sources like wind, which now supplies at least 14 percent of our electricity. Thanks to our state’s forward thinking renewable-fuel standards, the amount of renewable electricity will increase to at least 25 percent within 12 years, and some modest goals for solar power have also been set.
As I said, these changes don’t often make news. But they are making a difference.
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