Recent Press Releases

Washington, D.C. —  Senator John Thune yesterday addressed approximately 1,800 ethanol industry leaders at the 20th annual American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) Conference in St. Paul, MN. Senator Thune spoke on the challenges and opportunities facing the growing ethanol industry and gave a legislative update on activities in Washington, DC. Senator Thune highlighted the need for an increased Renewable Fuels Standard, approval of higher blends of ethanol, increased research for cellulosic ethanol, and access to E85 at the retail level.

A copy of Senator Thune's entire remarks as they were prepared is available here. Following are excerpts from Senator Thune's prepared remarks:

In 2001, ethanol production totaled approximately 1.8 billion gallons of ethanol. At the end of last year, this number was approximately 5.4 billion gallons of clean renewable fuel. With more plants coming on line, nationwide ethanol production will soon double.

In the coming years, as ethanol contributes an ever greater portion of our fuel supply, ethanol will transition from being a fuel additive to a petroleum replacement. Corn-based ethanol will also be supplemented by future supplies of commercial scale cellulosic ethanol production.

Congress has a role to play:
Congress also has an important role to play as ethanol transitions through a critical period in the industry's history. We need effective public policy that keeps the ethanol industry growing in a sustainable and productive manner. A higher Renewable Fuels Standard, greater access to renewable fuel pumps, more research and development of cellulosic ethanol, and, perhaps most importantly, the approval of intermediate ethanol blends are critical to the growth and sustainability of the ethanol industry.

During debate of the CLEAN Energy Act, several anti-ethanol amendments were introduced that would have derailed domestic ethanol production. . I am proud to have actively worked to defeat [these] anti-ethanol amendments during the recent Senate debate on the energy bill, and I am also pleased that several key ethanol provisions were included in the Senate-passed bill.

Senator Thune's Alternative Refueling System Legislation:
In particular, the Senate energy bill included my bi-partisan legislation to boost the number of alternative fuel refueling pumps. This provision would give station owners grants for 30 percent (not exceeding $30,000) to offset the costs of installing E85 refueling pumps. Roughly one percent of our nation's gas stations offer E85, and with over 6 million flexible fuel vehicles on the road today, consumers must have access to E85 in every part of our country.

Congressional Action/Inaction on a Renewable Fuel Standard:
The Senate-passed CLEAN Energy Act would also increase the Renewable Fuels Standard to 36 billion gallons in 2022. During the last Congress, I was proud to have played a role in passing the first ever Renewable Fuels Standard of 7.5 billion gallons by 2012 as part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. After four long years of delay, members from both sides of the aisle came together and declared that ethanol will be part of our nation's energy future.

Since the passage of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 - which the President signed into law two years ago this week, the American farmer and the ethanol industry have responded to this call by ramping up production in a historic fashion. We are now on pace to exceed the current Renewable Fuels Standard over three years ahead of schedule. Mandating more biofuels in our nation's fuel supply is a critical step toward energy independence

Unfortunately, the Democratic leadership in the House of Representatives does not believe the Renewable Fuels Standard should be increased. Just last Saturday, as the House worked to finish last minute legislation before the August recess, the House passed its energy bill -- which excluded an increase to the Renewable Fuels Standard.

Overcoming the E-10 "Blend Wall:
In addition to the RFS, Congress and the Administration must work together with the ethanol and automotive industries to approve intermediate blends of ethanol blended gasoline for non-flex fuel vehicles. Many industry leaders, including some of those present today, have concern about the short-term market for ethanol as we approach what some call an "E10 wall."

EPA approval of intermediate ethanol blends would complement their recent decision to reclassify fuel ethanol plants under the Clean Air Act. Prior to this reclassification, fuel ethanol plants were classified under an arbitrary 100-ton per year major source permitting threshold.

I have been working for years with the EPA on this important rulemaking, which will result in greater, more efficient ethanol production. I am pleased that the EPA acted on this issue, and I hope the EPA will once again support reasonable measures to promote homegrown energy by approving intermediate blends of ethanol for non-flex fuel vehicles.

Senator Thune Biofuels Innovation Program:
As a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, I have proposed a Biofuels Innovation Program, which will provide incentives for farmers to grow energy dedicated crops while cellulosic ethanol biorefineries are being constructed.

Under this program, communities, ethanol companies, and producer groups can apply as single entity for inclusion in this program. If the U.S. Department of Agriculture determines that a cellulosic biorefinery is feasible in that particular area, participating producers would receive a cost share for planting energy dedicated crops and a per-acre rental payment while the crops are being established and the biorefinery is being constructed.

Producers who deliver energy dedicated crops or crop residues to the gate of a biorefinery are also eligible for a dollar-for-dollar match up to $45 per ton for the harvest, storage, and transportation of cellulosic biomass. This is a critical component to an economical cellulosic ethanol supply chain, and the 2007 Farm Bill is an ideal vehicle to move this legislation.

I am pleased that House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson included a similar provision in the House-passed farm bill. His leadership on this issue is strong and his Biomass Energy Reserve Program is forward looking and critical to the success of cellulosic ethanol. I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Senate Agriculture Committee to ensure such a provision is included in the Senate Farm Bill.

America's Energy Security:
Last week, a barrel of crude oil hit another record high at over $78 per barrel. I believe that with each increase, the American consumer pays a higher terrorism tax. The terrorism tax is the excessive profits collected by countries like Venezuela and others in the Middle East that want to harm the United States.

It is up to the ethanol industry leaders present today, state legislators across the country, and Congressional leaders in Washington D.C. to replace the terrorism tax with positive energy production here in the United States. Increased ethanol production is the key to reversing our dangerous dependence on foreign oil and thus reducing the terrorism tax on U.S. consumers.

As the ethanol industry expands into new markets, attacks from ethanol's opponents will ultimately follow. World hunger groups and extreme environmental groups are now singing the siren song of doomsday consequences of increased ethanol production. Leftist foreign leaders are criticizing the U.S. for taking proactive measures to promote our domestic renewable resources. Big Oil is stifling access to ethanol through a variety of tactics that restrict access to E85 at franchise stations.

It is easy to get caught up in these arguments and to lose sight of the admirable goal of energy security. However, we must remind ourselves that collectively, we are striving for something far greater. No one ever said that transforming the primary energy source for the world's largest economy would be easy, but America's farmers and ethanol producers are meeting this challenge. The industry continues to grow, more plants are being constructed, technology is advancing, and legislative victories are being won in Washington, DC.

My message for your today is simple. Keep moving forward. Keep investing in new technology and new plants. Keep creating jobs in rural America. Keep America on a path to energy independence. And Congress will continue to support ethanol as the cornerstone of our nation's energy policy.

Thank you again for the opportunity to address you today. I look forward to working with you as we continue to make our country stronger and more energy independent.