Letters to the Editor

US Agriculture Is the Future of Cleaner Flight and Minnesota Is Ready to Take the Lead

The views expressed are those of the individual authors and not necessarily those of DTN, its management or employees.


To the Editor:

From soil health to regenerative farming practices, innovation is core to the ethos of American agriculture, and it's at the heart of who we are in Minnesota.

It's no surprise that American agriculture is ready to innovate when it comes to fueling our aviation industry. And with electrification still far away as an opportunity to decarbonize air travel, we're looking at sustainable aviation fuel as a solution to powering the airline industry.

The Biden administration has set several ambitious goals for decarbonization -- including a target of net-zero carbon emissions for the transportation sector by 2050 (https://www.energy.gov/…) and a goal of 3 billion gallons (https://www.energy.gov/…) of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) by 2030.

Stakeholders in the aviation sector have begun to announce SAF goals and agreements. In 2022, DHL Express (https://www.dhl.com/…) announced that BP and Neste deals would provide SAF from both suppliers until 2026; Delta Airlines (https://news.delta.com/…), Hawaiian Airlines (https://newsroom.hawaiianairlines.com/…) and American Airlines (https://investors.gevo.com/…) announced purchase agreements for SAF from Gevo, Inc. this year and last; and Boeing (https://www.prnewswire.com/…) just doubled SAF purchases for commercial operations this year.

But there is more to be done to reach these goals, which means more opportunities to tap into the crop-based biofuels sector.

What is abundantly clear is that we will not achieve the Biden administration's goals without the contributions of American crop-based biofuels. In Minnesota, we understand the urgency to address climate change, have the problem-solving spirit to tackle these problems, and are home to thousands of farmers and workers ready to meet the needs of a growing SAF industry.

In the SAF Grand Challenge Roadmap (https://www.energy.gov/…), the Biden administration set a goal of 3 billion gallons of SAF produced by 2030. With only seven years to go, time is of the essence for making progress on these important decarbonization targets.

In Minnesota, we embrace this sense of urgency. Sustainability and ingenuity are core priorities for so many farms here in Minnesota. Take Shawn Feikema's family farm in southwest Minnesota. Shawn uses cattle manure to fertilize his fields without the use of synthetic fertilizers, corn stovers to enrich the soil, and strip-tills his fields to reduce waste. Farmers like Shawn are using various sustainable agricultural practices to limit carbon emissions.

And as Governor of Minnesota, I know we have what it takes to lead in creating sustainable aviation fuels.

As the third-largest producer of corn in the U.S. with over 8 million acres planted and $1.78 billion value of corn exported, Minnesota boasts more than 24,000 farmers ready to contribute to this growing industry.

Thanks to outstanding opportunities at the University of Minnesota, we also have the research capabilities to innovate and advance the industry.

To attract more investment in SAF, this year we created a nation-leading sustainable aviation fuel tax credit. The new refundable tax credit provides $1.50 per gallon of sustainable aviation fuel produced or blended in Minnesota and sold for use in planes departing Minnesota airports. This tax credit, combined with new federal tax breaks, will help grow this emerging industry right here in Minnesota. We have also added a construction materials sales tax exemption for the next three years to further incentivize the location of these new facilities in Minnesota.

Crop-based biofuels are an obvious solution when it comes to making one of our biggest carbon footprints, the airline industry, more sustainable. With smaller greenhouse gas footprints than fossil fuels, crop-based biofuels can be the building blocks that help us meet our national net-zero goals. In fact, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (https://www.ipcc.ch/…) several years ago determined that biofuels can help lead to the reduction of emissions required in energy-intensive industries to limit warming by 1.5 degrees Celsius.

SAF that leverages crop-based feedstocks is a win-win in reducing our carbon footprint while supporting rural communities and creating good-paying jobs across the United States. In addition to boosting feedstock production, expanding SAF production would create job opportunities in construction and equipment design for cutting-edge biorefineries, manufacturing for operating SAF biorefineries and infrastructure, and scientific research on bioenergy and biofuels. Estimates (https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/…) show developing biomass resources and addressing current limitations in SAF could contribute more than $259 billion and 1.1 million jobs to the U.S. economy by 2030.

As Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and federal leaders work to move these ambitious decarbonization goals forward, they cannot lose sight of the opportunity to leverage American agriculture to scale up our SAF industry, advance sustainability, and support rural communities nationwide with the help of crop-based biofuels.

In Minnesota, we have the resources, research capacity, and expertise to position our state on the leading edge of the SAF industry and ensure our biofuels industry is strong for generations to come. Because this industry is good for farmers, our climate, and the economy -- and Minnesota is seizing the opportunity.

Tim Walz

Governor of Minnesota


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