Senator John ThuneI have used this column to talk about the benefits of cellulosic ethanol on many occasions, and I am excited about the future of its production in South Dakota. In Congress, I am working to secure cellulosic ethanol’s place in our national energy strategy, and currently, this means fixing a provision in the 2007 Energy Bill.
Cellulosic ethanol can be produced from a variety of raw materials, including wood waste found in our national forests. Wood waste includes waste from saw mills and leftover biomass after lumber is harvested, which is a serious fire danger if not properly managed. Managing this waste promotes healthier forests, provides a valuable energy source, and could provide a new economic opportunity for the Black Hills area if processed into ethanol.
The U.S. Senate recognized the tremendous potential of cellulosic ethanol when it included incentives for producers and refiners to use renewable biomass as part of the 2007 Energy Bill. Unfortunately, the definition of renewable biomass in the final version of the Energy Bill excludes wood waste removed from national forests like Black Hills National Forest. This change in the definition was a result of Speaker Pelosi allowing liberal environmental groups to add language to the bill behind closed doors.
If wood waste is not included in the definition, ethanol producers like KL Process Design in Rapid City and ProEco in Belle Fourche will not have the same incentive to use it, and in the end, everybody loses. I have introduced legislation to fix the definition to include wood waste and other biomass removed from national forests in a sustainable manner. National forests are one of our greatest renewable resources, and when properly managed, they can contribute to our nation’s energy security as well.
The 2007 Energy Bill that was signed into law in December includes a requirement that 5.5 billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol be produced by 2015 and up to 21 billion gallons by 2022. We need to ensure that there is an ample amount of biomass available (such as wood waste) to meet this requirement.
I believe that our nation has an opportunity to significantly boost renewable fuel production. I look forward to working with leaders in the private sector and my colleagues in Congress to create opportunities that are good not only for South Dakota but the entire country.