Senator John Thune
For America to achieve energy independence, we must work to diversify our energy sources. I have worked throughout my years in Congress to promote energy opportunities in South Dakota such as wind energy production, biodiesel, and corn ethanol, and I believe there is more that we can do to grow, rather than import, energy.
Cellulosic ethanol is a second generation biofuel produced from non-food plant sources, such as wood chips and prairie grass. With our vast prairies and the Black Hills National Forest, South Dakota is in a unique position to supply feedstocks to ethanol plants that could be built all over the state, creating thousands of good jobs. Cellulosic ethanol also has the ability to spread biofuel production to areas of the country where it was previously impossible.
The Energy Independence and Security Act, which became law in 2007, increases the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) to 36 billion gallons by 2022. Of that 36 billion gallons, 21 billion must be cellulosic ethanol. Unfortunately, due to changes inserted at the last minute, cellulosic ethanol derived from wood waste gathered in our national forests does not count toward satisfying the RFS.
I have recently introduced a bipartisan bill that would fix the definition of "renewable biomass" so that biofuel made from Black Hills National Forest slash piles and other national forest waste products would count toward the RFS. Removing forest waste for biofuel production would create significant economic opportunity across the country, and is better for the health of our forests and reduces the dangers of wildland fires.
Utilizing forest waste will further reduce our nation's dependence on imported oil while at the same time creating more jobs in South Dakota and across the nation. The American biofuels industry is ready to take the lead with increasing the production of renewable energy, but Congress and the EPA need to first get out of the way. Allowing for cellulosic ethanol production from national forest wood waste is a good place to start and my bipartisan bill will fix the flawed definition of renewable biomass.