Recent Press Releases

Rapid City, S.D —  U.S. Senator John Thune, as Ranking Member of the Senate Agriculture Energy, Science and Technology Subcommittee, conducted a public hearing today on transforming forest waste into biofuels. Despite the fact that ethanol can be produced from a host of different feedstocks, the definition of "Renewable Biomass" in the final version of the 2007 Energy bill arbitrarily excludes cellulosic ethanol derived from waste materials found in national forests from counting toward the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS).

In January, Senator Thune introduced the first bill in Congress to fix the definition of renewable biomass to more closely conform to the 2005 RFS and the Senate-passed Farm Bill (H.R. 2419) - both of which allowed forest waste material that is turned into ethanol to count toward the RFS. This legislation would allow pre-commercial and post-commercial waste from national forests to be eligible feedstocks under the definition of "Renewable Biomass." Under Thune's legislation, the biomass material must be removed in a sustainable manner and in compliance with all applicable state and federal laws such as the Healthy Forests Act of 2003.

"Today's hearing was an important step in our efforts to expand cellulosic ethanol opportunities across the country," said Thune. "Cellulosic ethanol can be produced from a variety of raw materials, including wood waste found in our national forests which is a serious fire danger if not properly managed. Allowing wood waste to be turned into ethanol promotes healthier forests, provides a valuable domestic energy source, and could create new economic opportunities for the Black Hills."

According to a 2005 U.S. Department of Energy and U.S. Department of Agriculture study, roughly two billion tons of treatable biomass on federal forestland is available for bioenergy production. A significant portion of this biomass could be sustainably removed on an annual basis. The estimate does not include post-commercial waste such as wood chips from paper mills or biomass that could be removed from private forest land.