Recent Press Releases

Brookings, SD —  Senator John Thune today toured a test plot and a chemistry lab at South Dakota State University (SDSU) where researchers are studying the use of lignocellulosic feedstocks for renewable fuel production. Lignocellulosic biomass is any non-seed portion of a plant that can be used for bioenergy or biochemical production. The Defense Authorization bill, which was recently passed by the Senate, included a provision championed by Senator Thune setting aside $4 million for lignocellulosic research at SDSU funded by the Army and $4 million for the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology (SDSM&T) funded by the Air Force.

"Renewable fuels research in South Dakota continues to produce exciting results," said Thune. "Lignocellulosic biomass appears to have many applications that can broaden the impact of the renewable energy boom, both in South Dakota and across the nation."

In addition to the research funding, Senator Thune included an amendment in the Defense Authorization bill that sets a goal for the Air Force to certify its entire fleet of aircraft on a 50-50 blend of synthetic and conventional fuels by 2011. Currently, the Air Force is the single largest consumer of conventional aviation jet fuel. Senator Thune also worked to include language in the bill that sets a goal for the Air Force to acquire half of its domestic jet fuel needs from domestic synthetic fuel blends by 2016.

The research at SDSU is geared toward producing a cost effective synthetic jet fuel refined from prairie cordgrass. The SDSM&T project would focus on similar improvements to existing biofuel conversion processes as well as researching new production methods. The SDSM&T research would focus particularly on the woody biomass resulting from forestry in the Black Hills. Earlier this year, Senator Thune outlined a comprehensive pine beetle management plan that includes increased use of wood waste for renewable energy production.

"Increased renewable fuel consumption by the Air Force and other military branches is an important national security goal," added Thune. "The ongoing research in South Dakota is advancing the potential of biofuels for both military and civilian applications. This is critical for our national security, our rural economy, and our continued effort to reduce our dependence on imported energy."

Senator Thune is the author of the Biomass Crop Assistance Program which was established as part of last year's Farm Bill to promote the next generation of biofuels. Senator Thune is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and he is the ranking member on the Senate Agriculture Energy Subcommittee.