Senator John ThuneFor some time, South Dakota has been setting a national example on the importance of exploring alternatives to foreign sources of energy to power our vehicles, homes, and businesses.
As a top corn-producing state with 13 ethanol plants in existence and four more under construction, South Dakota is leading the way in corn-based ethanol production.
Looking to the future, students and faculty at South Dakota State University are pioneering research on cellulosic ethanol, which would be made from renewable sources like switchgrass and woodchips. And as the windiest state in the nation, South Dakota has the potential to generate significant amounts of wind energy that could meet the electricity needs of thousands of Americans. Efforts are already underway to tap into this rich renewable resource, which would provide more jobs and bring economic growth to the state.
To further the work being done on renewable energy in South Dakota, the Senate recently passed a comprehensive energy package, the CLEAN Energy Act of 2007, which included several renewable energy provisions I worked to secure.
One provision, which I have been working to enact for the past two years, would greatly increase consumer access to alternative fuels across the country.
U.S. automakers have placed millions of Flex Fuel Vehicles on the road today and have pledged to manufacture more. Consumers are eager for more diverse options at the pump that are better for the environment and more affordable, but there is a significant need for more alternative energy refueling sites. Of the 180,000 gas stations across the country, less than 1 percent of those stations offer alternative fuels such as E-85 ethanol.
My provision, which was included in the Senate-passed energy package, would provide grants to gas station owners who install or replace alternative fuel tanks. This would give consumers opportunities to opt for a wide variety of alternative fuels, such as E-85, compressed natural gas, or bio-diesel. This would also greatly benefit farmers in rural states like South Dakota by creating jobs in the growing alternative fuels industry.
In addition to expanding alternative fuel infrastructure, I also was able to secure a measure in the energy bill that promotes the development of energy transmission infrastructure for clean, renewable energy. My provision calls for the creation of energy corridors that would facilitate the transference of wind energy generated in South Dakota to high-demand areas.
This would help to spur development of the transmission infrastructure necessary to carry the wind energy produced in South Dakota to large out-of-state markets.
I’m pleased to report the energy package also boosts the Renewable Fuels Standard from 7.5 billion gallons in 2012 to 36 billion gallons in 2022. I originally worked to secure the 7.5 billion-gallon Renewable Fuels Standard in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, and have consistently advocated for its increase since then. Increasing the Renewable Fuels Standard will greatly benefit ethanol production for generations to come – including the development of cellulosic ethanol.
The CLEAN Energy Act also increases gasoline mileage standards for cars and light trucks by roughly 40 percent by 2020. Fuel economy standards have not increased in more than 30 years. Such a proposal could save as much as 2.1 million barrels per day in 2025— approximately as much as the U.S. imports from the Middle East each day.
I supported the passage of the CLEAN Energy Act of 2007 because it is an important step forward for our country on the path to energy independence. America’s vulnerable energy supply, which comes largely from unstable regions like the Middle East and Venezuela, poses not only a dangerous threat to our national security, but is driving gas prices to record prices across the country.
I will continue to work to promote renewable energy as a means of weaning ourselves off of foreign oil and making America more energy independent.