Exploring the future of low-carbon transportation fuels

A moderated conversation between leading practitioners

There are many people putting forward compelling ideas and visions for the future, and we have been craving a little time to step back and consider these fresh perspectives and how they can contribute to the clean energy future we’re building together.

During the first virtual gathering of CERTs' new Energy Futures event series on September 23, 2020, we explored the future of low-carbon transportation fuels with Brendan Jordan of Great Plains Institute, Erin Meier with Green Lands Blue Waters, and Michael Reese at University of Minnesota West Central Research and Outreach Center

Event Moderator & Speakers

Brendan Jordan
Vice President, Transportation and Fuels
Great Plains Institute
Erin Meier
Green Lands Blue Waters
Michael Reese
Director, Renewable Energy
UMN West Central Research and Outreach Center

Watch or listen to the conversation below.

You can also explore more resources further down.

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A Clean Fuels Policy for the Midwest

A well-designed clean fuels policy has numerous positive attributes for the economy and environment:

  • It's not about picking winners and losers, it's really designed to be technology-neutral.
  • Supports a portfolio of clean fuels and compensates fuel producers based on their actual carbon performance without discriminating against or disproportionately favoring any fuel.
  • Encourages a competitive marketplace in clean fuels and offers incentives to support access to the market.
  • Supports development of a variety of clean fuel types, including but not limited to biofuels, electricity, and hydrogen.
  • Thinks beyond vehicles to transit, heavy trucks, aviation, rail, and marine fuels.
  • Has the potential to support both rural economies and farmers, though there is work to be done figuring out how farmers get that value, as well as urban areas by advancing cleaner fuels with reduced air emissions.
  • Structured to avoid imposing cost increases on consumers, which is essential for low-income households.


There were two questions we didn't get to during the event that our speakers have answered below. Wondering what other questions attendees had? Watch or listen to find out!

2 things. First, yes, time is on the side EVs with rapidly dropping battery costs and improving battery technology. But a complete shift to EV even in “easier” sectors to convert, like light duty vehicles, will take decades. We will have gasoline engines on the road for a long, long time, and can get near-term GHG reductions by putting higher blends of biofuels into those gas tanks and decarbonizing biofuel production processes.

Second, there are many parts of the transportation system that will be harder to serve with batteries. For example, long-haul trucking, aviation, marine. These sectors may always require a high-density, low carbon, liquid fuel. There are pathways to produce, for example, biobased sustainable aviation fuel. One pathway would involve converting an ethanol plant over to produce isobutanol, which is converted to SAF. Another pathway involved gasification of biomass. A third might involve converting oils, possibly from cover crops such as camelina and pennycress, into SAF.

In short, yes, I see a big opportunity for biofuel, near-term and long-term.

Yes, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are electric vehicles. Instead of discharging electricity from a battery to power the electric motor, a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle processes hydrogen through a fuel cell to produce electricity to power an electric motor. Its just a different way to store energy for use by the electric motor.

About this series, Energy Futures: Conversations on Where We’re Headed

There are many people putting forward compelling ideas and visions for the future, and we have been craving a little time to step back and consider these fresh perspectives and how they can contribute to the clean energy future we’re building together.

We thought it might be fun to just sit down with folks, hear what they’re thinking, and invite a couple others into a conversation to help us think more expansively about the potential opportunities and trade-offs.

The new Energy Futures virtual event series from CERTs will be an opportunity to do just that! Join us to:

  • Take a step back and imagine potential energy futures
  • Learn from different perspectives on varying aspects of Minnesota's quickly evolving clean energy path
  • Hear a range of ideas over the course of the series about where we’re headed
  • Consider potential implications of these futures and better understand the role of communities in these scenarios

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