Senator John ThuneIf Congress fails to enact a higher Renewable Fuels Standard, South Dakota's biofuels industry faces an uncertain future. South Dakota has 13 ethanol plants in operation and four plants under construction.
In the current ethanol marketplace, our small-locally owned ethanol plants, which have created thousands of jobs in our state, are facing declining profit margins over the coming months and may be forced to suspend production, or shutdown entirely. The impact of such closures on South Dakota's economy, and the 14,000 South Dakota families who have invested in these plants, would be devastating. Jobs would be lost and communities would suffer.
Recently I introduced an amendment to the Farm Bill that would significantly increase the Renewable Fuels Standard. Unfortunately, this amendment is being held up by partisan politics in the United States Senate. I believe that putting politics ahead of South Dakota's future is a dangerous and irresponsible game.
My proposal would expand the market for America's ethanol producers to 36 billion gallons by 2022 - up from the current standard of 7.5 billion gallons by 2012 - which would strengthen our nation's rural economies and displace billions of barrels of imported crude oil. Furthermore, it would require that 21 billion of the 36 billion gallons of homegrown energy would come from advanced biofuels like cellulosic ethanol. Increasing the market for ethanol is critical because our nation's ethanol producers are expected to meet the 7.5 billion gallon production level by the end of the year - roughly four years ahead of schedule.
As oil rapidly approaches $100 a barrel, America needs to decide if we are going to send our energy dollars to rogue leaders of nations who intend to do us harm, or use these funds to encourage family farmers across the country to grow crops that can be converted to ethanol. Rather than funding the hostile regimes of those opposing our interests, it is time for America to invest in domestic alternative energy sources. Breaking this nation's dependence on foreign sources of energy is absolutely critical and achievable. America has the resources, the will, and the need to produce more of our energy here at home.
Some have suggested that my amendment would be a better fit for the Energy Bill rather than the Farm Bill. However, the Energy Bill has been stalled for months and we have no guarantees that a comprehensive energy bill with a strong Renewable Fuels Standard will be signed into law this year. The Senate Farm Bill includes over $2.3 billion in ethanol production incentives. Furthermore, America's farmers and foresters stand ready to continue to meet the demand for ethanol in the foreseeable future. Including a Renewable Fuels Standard in the Farm Bill would complement the current incentives in the bill and give our producers a certain market for their crops.
Congress needs to put politics aside and do the right thing by raising the Renewable Fuels Standard. I believe Congress must take every opportunity to pass a Renewable Fuels Standard this year, and many of my Senate colleagues on both sides of the aisle feel the same way. Standing in the way of including this sensible provision is not in our nation's best interest.