Recent Op-Eds

A recent study conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the University of Nebraska has discovered that ethanol produced from switchgrass yields 540 percent more energy than is required to produce the fuel. These findings help underscore the great potential that cellulosic ethanol could play in reducing our dependence on foreign sources of energy.

Researchers used switchgrass that was harvested from ten farms in the upper Midwest, including farms near Ethan, Huron, Highmore, and Bristol, South Dakota. Although a number of feedstocks can be used to produce cellulosic ethanol, switchgrass was used because it is native to the upper Great Plains.

This important study confirms the great potential cellulosic ethanol could hold for our energy security and the environment. Corn-based ethanol has brought millions of dollars into South Dakota's economy, and as a result of that investment, our state and other states in the Western Corn Belt are uniquely suited to benefit from the next generation of ethanol production.

As we work to lessen our nation's dependence on foreign sources of energy, this study helps in underscoring the role that cellulosic feedstocks, such as switchgrass, could play in our nation's renewable energy production. The study also concluded that switchgrass ethanol emits 94 percent less greenhouse gas emissions than regular gasoline.

As an advocate for greater renewable fuels production, I am pleased to report that both the House and Senate-passed Farm Bills includes my Biofuels Innovation Program, which is designed to jumpstart the cellulosic ethanol industry. This new program would provide incentives to farmers who grow energy-dedicated crops while cellulosic production capabilities are brought online. As Congress works to finalize the Farm Bill, I will be working hard to insure that the Biofuels Innovation Program is in the final legislation.

Even though the 2007 Energy Bill that was signed into law in December included a requirement that 5.5 billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol be produced by 2015 and up to 21 billion gallons by 2022, we still need to ensure that there is an ample amount of feedstock available (such as switchgrass) to meet this requirement. This is exactly why my Biofuels Innovation Program is so critical for the large scale commercialization of cellulosic ethanol.

I believe that our nation has an opportunity to significantly boost renewable fuel production. I look forward to working with leaders in the private sector and my colleagues in Congress to create opportunities that are good not only for South Dakota but the entire country.