Recent Op-Eds

The growth of the renewable fuels industry is an economic success story for South Dakota and much of rural America, and I will continue to do all I can to support this alternative energy industry. Our nation's energy policy is at a crossroads, and biofuels should be a significant part of our long term solution to America's energy needs.

There are decisions being made by regulators in Washington that could have a big impact on biofuel production and consumption in America. Currently, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is considering allowing the use of E15 (85 percent gasoline, 15 percent ethanol) in standard, non-flex fuel vehicles. The current highest approved blend is E10, which hasn't changed in roughly 30 years.

In recent months I have met with colleagues on both sides of the aisle and officials from the U.S. Energy and Agriculture Departments, as well as officials from the EPA, to discuss the benefits of E15 and even higher blends of ethanol. I have also had similar meetings with representatives from the major American auto companies.

Numerous studies by both the government and the energy industry have concluded that E15 can be used safely in standard car and truck engines without any significant sacrifice in performance. Increasing ethanol consumption through E15 would also create thousands of jobs and further reduce foreign oil imports. In short, E15 is a winner for our economy and enhances our energy security.

While the EPA considers approving E15, the agency is accepting public comments, and I encourage South Dakotans to visit to offer their support for E15.

However, some actions under consideration by federal regulators will not have the same positive effects as the approval of E15. The EPA is considering how to measure the carbon output of ethanol, not only as a result of consumption but of production as well. Some theorize that biofuel production in the U.S. results in more carbon outputs from agricultural producers in other parts of the world, in what is known as "indirect land usage." Studies show, however, that ethanol greatly reduces greenhouse gas emissions relative to regular gasoline.

This is distressing in light of the fact that the EPA has taken initial steps toward regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant under the terms of the Clean Air Act without any legislative direction from Congress. This opens up anything from ethanol to livestock emissions to additional regulation and taxation.

South Dakotans know how important renewable fuels are to our economy, and we have long seen the benefit they have in our nation's energy policy. As regulators like the EPA make decisions regarding the future of renewable fuels, it is critical that they have the input of the people who are affected by their choices. I encourage South Dakotans to contact the EPA in support of E15 and biofuels in general, so that our rural success story can continue into the next chapter.