Klobuchar hopeful for biofuel

CLAREMONT, Minn. — After a 2 a.m. vote in Washington, Sen. Amy Klobuchar flew to her home state on Feb. 10 for a two-day, 10-county tour.

Randy Doyal CEO of Al-Corn Clean Fuel talks with Senator Amy Klobuchar on Feb. 10 in Claremont, Minn. as part of the senator's 10-county rural economy tour.

CLAREMONT, Minn. — After a 2 a.m. vote in Washington, Sen. Amy Klobuchar flew to her home state on Feb. 10 for a two-day, 10-county tour.

Her purpose was to visit rural areas in southern and western Minnesota, as she looks ahead to discussions for the next farm bill and the Renewable Fuel Standard. Her first stop was a place where these things matter quite a bit: the Al-Corn Clean Fuel ethanol plant in Claremont, which is undergoing a $146 million expansion.

Klobuchar was impressed with the work being done there.

"Even with the fuel prices low, you're still able to expand," she told Al-Corn chief executive officer Randy Doyal and his staff and board members.

Klobuchar has been part of bipartisan efforts recently to strengthen the RFS. The Obama administration put in a higher standard in November, which will require a record amount of biofuel to be mixed into the country's transportation fuel supply in 2017.


"It gives this company and others some promise that we're going to keep using ethanol," she said. "It's 10 percent of our fuel supply and an important part of energy for the country."

Minnesota is the fourth-largest ethanol producer in the United States, and Al-Corn is helping that effort with its expansion from 50 million gallons to 120 million.

The senator met with former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, President Donald Trump's nominee for Secretary of Agriculture, on Thursday and expressed optimism that he will work for biofuel producers.

"We had an excellent meeting for about 45 minutes in my office," Klobuchar said. "He seemed informed about our Midwest agriculture issues and eager to get to work. I talked to (Rep.) Collin Peterson as well about him, and we both are very hopeful about his nomination. We specifically talked about ethanol, and he was supportive of the renewable fuels standard."

Klobuchar said she believed Perdue had a great chance of being confirmed.

"We'll have to work with him on the Midwestern issues, but he seemed pretty well-schooled," she said.

While meeting with Doyal, Al-Corn staff and board members and Claremont city officials, Klobuchar toured the plant, seeing where it is being expanded. Along with adding two silos to increase capacity, the plant is adding railroad tracks to transport its products.

"Our ethanol right now is primarily in the Twin Cities," Doyal said. "We're the closest ethanol plant to the Cities. We also participate in things like barge shipment out of Winona or container freight."


Also of concern for Claremont is the completion of U.S. Highway 14, which Klobuchar said would be aided by the federal FAST Act, which will provide the state money for the next five years. The state Legislature still must do its part to contribute money for the project to get it done, however.

Still, Klobuchar said she is committed to helping rural areas get the funding they need.

"If we do an additional thing, it shouldn't just be for big projects on the East Coast, but rural areas should get a significant carve out of it," she said.

Also on Feb. 10, Klobuchar visited Cybex International in Owatonna and Guardian Energy in Janesville. On Feb. 11, she visited St. Peter Food Co-op in St. Peter; Le Sueur County Environmental Services in Le Center; Greater Mankato Growth in Mankato; the Madelia Chamber of Commerce; New Ulm City Hall; the Willmar Convention Center; and met with residents of Renville County in Olivia.

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