Recent Op-Eds

Countries such as Venezuela currently make a hefty profit from American consumers by forcing us to pay close to $70 a barrel or more for oil. The excessive oil profits enjoyed by these countries constitute a tax which all too often ends up fueling terrorist activities of radical extremists who hate America. It is imperative that our nation slash this terrorism tax and thus stymie petro-funded terrorism.

In order to cut the terrorism tax, we must reduce our dependence on foreign oil. This is not a simple matter, but lately signs of progress have surfaced. In Brookings this week, I chaired the Senate Agriculture Committee's first Energy Subcommittee hearing held in the 110th Congress. The committee heard testimony about the next generation of farmer-produced biofuels, which will help our nation cut the terrorism tax.

For South Dakota's farmers and ranchers to rise to the challenge of growing fuel on the plains, public policy must keep pace. Over the past few months, I've worked hard to ensure the growth of the ethanol industry and to simultaneously reduce the terrorism tax. Recently, I have taken several steps to boost the production and consumption of ethanol.

Last month, I contacted the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and urged that preparations begin quickly for EPA approval of E20, a blend of 20 percent ethanol and 80 percent gasoline. Our domestic ethanol production will soon meet and even exceed the demand for E10. Therefore, E20 approval and widespread use is an important stepping stone as we transition away from our nation's dangerous dependence on foreign sources of oil. In order to lessen U.S. dependence on foreign energy, it is critical that our ethanol industry, the auto industry, and the federal government work together to expand the production and acceptance of gasoline with higher blends of ethanol, such as E20.

The delivery of E20 and E85 is also dependent on increased alternative fuel infrastructure at the retail level. Again in this session of Congress, I have introduced a bipartisan bill in the Senate that would provide gas station owners with financial incentives to install alternative fuel pumps - including E85 and biodiesel.

Additionally, last month I joined a bipartisan group of Senators in sending a letter to Underwriters Laboratories requesting the approval of ethanol pump components. The current lack of such approval allows local regulators to block the installation of E85 pumps, which has lead to a great deal of uncertainty at the retail level.

I have also spoken out against the Administration's ethanol compact with Brazil. It is simply bad U. S. policy to promote foreign ethanol production at the same time our domestic ethanol industry is just getting off the ground. Alan Greenspan, former Chairman of the Federal Reserve, has publicly stated that South Dakota may be the next energy czar because of our potential for wind energy and renewable fuel production. However, South Dakota will never realize this potential if our national focus is on developing foreign sources of biofuels.

All this recent activity indicates that we are moving in the right direction. Successful domestic biofuels production, however, must be sustained over the long-term if we are to substantively reduce our nation's overdependence on foreign sources of oil - not to mention those countries who are dedicated to the destruction of America and all that we hold dear.