Recent Press Releases

Thune Cellulosic Ethanol Legislation Added to Farm Bill

Provision Would Diversify Ethanol Production in South Dakota and Across the Country

October 22, 2007

Washington, D.C. —  U.S. Senator John Thune announced today that the Senate farm bill which will be acted on this week includes his legislation designed to promote the production of cellulosic ethanol produced from switchgrass, other native grasses and biomass feedstocks such as wood chips. This week, the Senate Agriculture Committee, on which Senator Thune serves, will approve a measure to reauthorize our nation's federal farm programs for the next five years.

"This legislation is intended to provide the economic boost needed to kick-start the cellulosic ethanol industry. My legislation would ensure that energy-dedicated crops, such as switchgrass and other native grasses are available in sufficient supply to fuel cellulosic facilities as they come online," Thune said. "Corn ethanol production has moved America in the right direction towards energy independence and has changed the landscape of American agriculture. Cellulosic ethanol will complement corn ethanol production and is gaining momentum thanks, in part, to corn ethanol's infrastructure accomplishments," he went on to say. "Next generation cellulosic ethanol made from corn stover and other biomass products will gain from my biofuels legislation."

Thune's cellulosic ethanol bill, officially known as the Biofuels Innovation Program (BIP), was introduced on May 23, 2007.

"With the significant potential our state holds when it comes to producing ample supplies of cellulosic ethanol feedstock such as switchgrass, South Dakota would be at the epicenter of the next stage of the renewable fuels revolution. Our farmers could benefit from producing these new sources of energy and South Dakota consumers could save money at the pump due to this promising alternative energy solution. Research needs to move forward, production processes need to be perfected, and the commercial promise of these products needs to be promoted," Thune said.

Thune's legislation includes cost-sharing for establishing energy-dedicated crops and paying competitive rent until the energy dedicated crops are sold. The legislation also encourages feedstock production by providing per-ton payments to producers of biomass, such as corn cobs, perennial grasses, and wood chips. In total, Thune's legislation would provide $200 million in producer incentives to produce and deliver energy-dedicated crops. The per-ton payment alone would incentivize approximately 100 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol production.

Research is being conducted on the process of converting switchgrass into ethanol at South Dakota State University (SDSU) and other institutions across the country with the help of the Sun Grant Initiative. The farm bill that will be considered before the Senate Agriculture Committee also includes Senator Thune's legislation to reauthorize the Sun Grant Initiative.

The U.S. House of Representatives has already included most of Senator Thune's BIP proposal in their version of the Farm Bill, which passed the House earlier this year.