Recent Press Releases

Thune Introduces Bill to Boost Black Hills Economy

Legislation Would Allow National Forest Resources to be Counted Toward America's Renewable Fuels Standard

January 25, 2008

Washington, D.C. —  Today, Senator Thune introduced legislation that would fix the definition of renewable biomass in the 2007 Energy Bill. In the final version of the 2007 Energy bill, the definition of "Renewable Biomass" excludes any material removed from national forests. Therefore, cellulosic ethanol derived from this feedstock does not count towards the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS). The end result is blenders and refiners have no incentive or requirement to purchase biofuel made in the Black Hills area under the new RFS.

Thune's legislation would change the definition of "Renewable Biomass" to more closely conform to earlier versions of the RFS and the Senate-passed 2007 Farm Bill (H.R. 2419). This legislation would allow pre-commercial and post-commercial waste from national forests to be eligible feedstocks under the definition of "Renewable Biomass." The biomass material must be removed in a sustainable manner and in compliance with all applicable state and federal laws such as the Healthy Forests Act of 2003.

"America's national forests provide one of our greatest renewable resources. To exclude slash piles and other wastes from within our national forests to be counted towards the Renewable Fuels Standard simply makes no sense," said Thune. "My legislation will allow national forests like South Dakota's Black Hills National Forest to be used in a more sustainable manner that will help improve our economy, our environment and our national energy needs."

The definition of "Renewable Biomass" in the Senate-passed Farm Bill includes waste material from national forests. This definition was drafted to correlate with the Senate-passed RFS in June 2007. The Senate-passed Farm Bill includes several incentives for the production of cellulosic ethanol based on this definition of "Renewable Biomass." These incentives include grants and loan guarantees for cellulosic ethanol plants and provisions of the Biofuels Innovation Program.

According to a 2005 U.S. Department of Energy and U.S. Department of Agriculture study, about 2 billion tons of treatable biomass on federal forestland is available for bioenergy production. A significant portion of this biomass could be sustainably removed on an annual basis. The estimate does not include post-commercial waste such as wood chips from paper mills.