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Minnesota leads by supporting biodiesel

Hannah Korri, a freshman at the College of St. Scholastica, won second place and a $500 scholarship in the American Lung Association's 2014 Clean Air Choice Biodiesel Essay Contest, sponsored by the Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council. Below is her winning essay:

Many of us want to help our pristine environment that we are so infinitely lucky to inhabit in the beautiful state of Minnesota, but don't know exactly how. Well, there is one hugely beneficial way for those of us who drive a vehicle that uses diesel gasoline. Emissions from motorized vehicles are the single largest source of air pollution in the Upper Midwest, and that is a shame to think about — the carbon emissions suffocating the tall graceful pines, tinging the lapping crystalline waves of Lake Superior and polluting the crisp, clean air found only in our Northland.

Biodiesel is an alternative to regular petroleum diesel used by large vehicles such as trucks and city buses that is made from Minnesota's own soybean crop. Biodiesel is made mostly from soybean oil, making it environmentally friendly and Minnesota-homegrown. It is recognized as an "advanced biofuel" by the Environmental Protection Agency because it is a renewable fuel that cuts lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions by more than 50 percent. That's 50 percent less smog and emissions polluting our stunning Northland that we all call home.

What's even more, here are two things that most of us didn't know about our beloved home state: Minnesota was the first state to mandate the use of biodiesel, and we are one of the top soybean-growing states. These two wonderful pieces of information you now know go hand-in-hand. We were the first state ever to make biodiesel mandatory. How's that for a first step toward protecting our environment? Just like North Dakota has its huge oil fields underground, we grow ours on the top of our ground, only it's in an environmentally friendly and biodegradable way.

Another great thing about biodiesel is that it creates many jobs in the demand for soybean crops. In these tough economic times and this economy, any sustenance is greatly needed and appreciated with boosting the general welfare. Soybeans are a domestic, renewable resource that strengthens the local economy. It's a positive and promising outlook. Biodiesel is made through a simple refining process called transesterification, but lots of people are needed to run machines and grow and tend the soybean crops. It's an encouraging aspect in the face of the fuel-making process to think that many people will benefit from it. All the way through the process of making biodiesel and selling it, to the beginning of the manufacturing process to producing soybeans, hundreds of jobs are created and many people reap the benefits.

Pure biodiesel itself contains no petroleum; however, it blends easily with petroleum diesel. There is no reason to avoid putting even a small amount of biodiesel into petroleum diesel. The percentage of biodiesel in diesel fuel sold in Minnesota made a mandatory double from a 5-percent blend to 10 percent starting July 1, 2014.

This is a hugely positive step in the direction of sustainable energy. And even better, by 2015, state law mandates the blending of 20-percent biodiesel into the diesel fuel supply. It's clean-burning and nontoxic, making it enjoyable for all.

All in all, after reading this essay, we must remember two things: first, that Minnesota was the first state of the whole U.S. to mandate the use of biodiesel, and second, we are one of the top soybean-growing states. These two facts can catapult us to the forefront of the biodiesel and renewable energy field and secure our position as leaders. Showing that we were the first state to mandate the use of biodiesel shows that we aren't afraid to step up and take the lead and that we Minnesotans are more than ready to rise to challenge and address needs. This solidly places us in the midst of the frenzied world of environmental concerns, and solidly shows an avenue to creating more jobs and stabilizing local economies. We are all lucky and blessed to live in such a beautiful state, and by promoting the biodiesel industry, we are only protecting our beautiful habitat for even longer to come.