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Thune Advocates for More Biofuel Production and Consumption at Field Hearing

Coherent National Policy Key to Biofuel Growth

September 1, 2009

Sioux City, IA —  Senator John Thune today discussed national energy policy relating to biofuels with Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) as well as industry experts, researchers, and agricultural producers at a United States Senate Agriculture Committee Field Hearing in Sioux City, IA. The hearing focused on the artificial barriers erected by the federal government preventing increased biofuel production and consumption.

"The federal government has adopted a `Jekyll and Hyde' biofuel policy that provides some incentives for biofuels while at the same time limiting consumption and production through arbitrary and unnecessary restrictions," said Thune. "Biofuels can be an important part of meeting our national goal for decreased dependence on imported energy, but the federal government must not stand in the way of renewable energy production."

Senator Thune questioned witnesses on the need for a new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-approved higher gasoline/ethanol blend, the exclusion of National Forest byproduct from the definition of "renewable biomass," and the need for a dedicated pipeline for biofuel transportation. Senator Thune also questioned witnesses on the industry's ability to survive the EPA's decision to measure indirect land use change calculations in a biofuel's carbon score, a decision that hurts biofuels relative to conventional fossil fuels.

"The witness panel at today's hearing is a good representation of industry experts, researchers, environmental scientists, and agricultural producers. Biofuels can continue to be a success story for many in rural America, but policies must be adapted to meet today's challenges," added Thune.

Senator Thune is the ranking member of the Agriculture Energy Subcommittee and has been a leading advocate for increased fuel production and use. Senator Thune helped author the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP), which was discussed during today's field hearing. BCAP provides per acre payments for the production of energy dedicated crops and a per-ton payment for renewable biomass delivered to a local biorefinery. The per-ton payments are now available for ethanol plants and agriculture producers.

Senator Thune also recently toured a test plot and a chemistry lab at South Dakota State University (SDSU) where researchers are studying the use of lignocellulosic feedstocks for renewable fuel production. Lignocellulosic biomass is any non-seed portion of a plant that can be used for bioenergy or biochemical production. The Defense Authorization bill, which was recently passed by the Senate, included a provision championed by Senator Thune setting aside $4 million for lignocellulosic research at SDSU funded by the Army and $4 million for the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology (SDSM&T) funded by the Air Force.

Witnesses at the hearing include Mark Stowers, Vice President for Research and Development at POET, which is based in Sioux Falls and Steve Corcoran, CEO of KL Energy Corporation from Rapid City. Other witnesses include Anna Rath, Director of Business Development at Ceres Inc.; John Sheehan, Scientific Program Coordinator for Biofuels and the Global Environment at the University of Minnesota's Institute for the Environment; Bill Couser of the Nevada, Iowa-based Couser Cattle Company; and Ed Olthoff of Cedar Falls Utilities.