Senator John ThuneOne of the greatest challenges our country faces is energy independence. As a nation, we face growing demands for energy and if we do nothing to address this situation we will become even more dependent on foreign sources of energy. I find it unacceptable that the world's largest economy, which has led the world in innovation for over a century, is beholden to foreign and often hostile regimes for our nation's energy supply, particularly when it comes to oil.
It is a national priority to move away from foreign sources of energy, and part of the solution requires us to do more when it comes to investing in clean, renewable sources of energy. With vast amounts of natural resources, the United States has the ability to produce increasing amounts of domestically produced clean energy.
South Dakota is at the forefront of the renewable energy revolution. By the end of 2008, South Dakota will be producing over one billion gallons of ethanol. Just a few years ago, South Dakota was producing only a fraction of this amount. Ethanol, a cleaner burning replacement for petroleum, is a fine example of how private sector innovation coupled with effective local, state, and federal policies can result in technology advances, rural economic development, and greater energy security.
Looking back on the last few years of ethanol production, wind energy is at a similar turning point. Technology advances and our nation's focus on renewable energy have led to significant growth in the wind industry. Our nation's wind generating capacity has increased an average of 22 percent over the last five years.
For decades, foreign countries, primarily in Western Europe, have been turning to wind energy to meet a greater portion of their energy needs. Although our wind industry is growing, the United States lags behind in wind energy development. In particular, inconsistent policies at the federal level have led to inconsistent investment in the wind industry.
South Dakota's wind energy development is also far behind that of our neighboring states. South Dakota has about 44 megawatts of wind generation capacity. Minnesota and Iowa have 895 megawatts and 936 megawatts, respectively. Wyoming has 288 megawatts of capacity. If South Dakota is to become a net exporter of energy, we need to capitalize on our abundant sources of wind.
To assist in attracting greater wind energy development in South Dakota, I have been working in Congress to eliminate some of the hurdles that currently exist. In June, the Senate passed its version of the CLEAN Energy Act of 2007. During debate of this bill, I successfully offered an amendment on the Senate floor that would create Clean Energy Corridors, something that I believe is absolutely critical if we are to significantly tap into our nation's wind energy potential. These corridors establish a streamlined permitting process for transmission lines that service renewable energy sources.
Since the early days of our state's history, wind power has been used to deliver scarce water resources to homes, fields, and livestock. Some historians note that windmills and wind power made what some refer to as the "Great American Desert" inhabitable by providing access to deep water resources.
Today, wind power is delivering clean, renewable electricity to millions of homes and businesses. I will continue to work to make sure South Dakota soon capitalizes on the potential for wind energy development.