Senator John ThuneAs I have traveled across South Dakota this month, I have found the number one issue on the minds of South Dakotans continues to be the high cost of energy. For many rural South Dakotans who must travel great distances for work or school, the cost of fuel hits especially hard. Similarly, our state’s agricultural producers have to use diesel fuel every day, a cost that will almost certainly be passed along to consumers.
While in South Dakota, I had the opportunity to spend some time with noted energy investor T. Boone Pickens, who is spearheading a national campaign calling for energy reform. One of Pickens’ key provisions is the expansion of wind energy generation, transmission, and storage infrastructure.
I have long been an advocate of harnessing one of South Dakota’s most abundant resources, wind, to generate clean, renewable energy. The bipartisan New Energy Reform Act includes my provision to extend the production tax credit for wind for four years, which will encourage investment in South Dakota’s wind industry.
Last week I also held a Senate Agriculture Energy Subcommittee field hearing at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City to receive testimony about the energy potential of the Black Hills. Specifically, the hearing focused on changing the definition of “renewable biomass” in the 2007 Energy Bill’s Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) to include waste material collected from National Forests and converted into cellulosic ethanol. As South Dakotans who live near the Black Hills know, careful forest management is critical to reducing fire danger, and we now have the opportunity to use those waste products to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. It is my hope that this hearing will enable us to move forward to change the renewable biomass definition so that Black Hills National Forest can contribute to meeting the requirements of the RFS.
My energy focused week continued with a trip to the Dakotafest farm show in Mitchell, where I joined U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer at a forum to discuss the role of second-generation biofuels in reducing our dependence on imported energy. In addition to the aforementioned wood waste, cellulosic ethanol can be produced from the corn stover and prairie grasses that are abundant in our state. As the biofuel industry continues to develop and evolve, I expect South Dakota to remain at the forefront of homegrown energy production.
Clearly, our national energy policy will have to include a diverse portfolio of solutions to overcome our dependence on oil. South Dakota, however, is poised to be a leader in both second-generation biofuel production as well as wind generation and transmission. I will continue to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, as well as the private sector, to make South Dakota a leader in our clean energy future.