Fact check: Emmer on ethanol

The candidates for governor debated out at Farmfest near Redwood Falls today. One does not travel that far to say anything bad about ethanol or biofuels, given the audience. Were it not for his running mate’s stumble on the issue four years ago, former attorney general Mike Hatch likely would be governor today.

Today the issue ensnared — sort of — Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer, when his opponents said he voted against a biofuels mandate in the state. Emmer said he thought he voted for the mandate, adding he supports alternative fuels. MPR’s Tom Scheck tweeted that

“Emmer says he voted for E20, but not biodiesel.”

The truth? He voted for it before he voted against it.

The old MPR Votetracker (bless its now-dead heart) reveals that on April 27, 2005, Emmer voted for a bill that increased the ethanol content in a gallon of gasoline in Minnesota to 20 percent. The vote came after five hours of debate.

The House version of the bill gave fuel sellers until 2010 to show that they were meeting the new standard. If they are not meeting it by then, they would get until 2013 before the requirement becomes absolute, an MPR report at the time said.

The Senate version of the bill, however, required the changed by 2012.

A conference committee worked out a deal which doubled the percentage of ethanol beginning in 2013, if a separate renewable fuel goal is not met.

When that bill went back to the House for a vote, Emmer voted against it, according to Votetracker.

The bill also contained a provision to protect dealers and refiners from lawsuits alleging damages from defective gasoline. The immunity would not apply to situations of “simple or willful negligence or fraud” or environmental or public health damages.

Gov. Pawlenty signed the bill.