Recent Press Releases

Thune Reintroduces Legislation to Encourage Biofuel Production from National Forests

Bill would allow national forest biomass to be counted toward the Renewable Fuels Standard

April 11, 2011

WASHINGTON, D.C. —  Senator John Thune has reintroduced legislation (S.781) to fix the flawed definition of "Renewable Biomass" included in the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007, which currently excludes any material removed from national forests and most private forestlands. Under the EISA definition, cellulosic ethanol derived from this feedstock does not count toward the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) when it is used to produce biofuels, which discourages blenders and refiners from purchasing biofuels produced from these readily available sources.

"As fuel prices continue to rise across our country with oil above $100 per barrel, we ought to be utilizing the ample amounts of forest waste available from our national forests, including South Dakota's Black Hills National Forest, to produce energy," said Thune. "Unfortunately, the current EISA statute unwisely excludes national forest biomass from counting toward the definition of `Renewable Biomass,' ultimately creating a missed opportunity to further develop renewable energy, while meeting our growing national energy needs and spurring economic growth."

This proposed legislation would change the definition of "Renewable Biomass" to more closely conform to renewable biomass definitions found in earlier versions of the RFS and the 2008 Farm Bill definition, which included waste material from national forests and private forestland. This legislation would allow pre-commercial and post-commercial waste from national forests to be eligible feedstocks under the definition of "Renewable Biomass" for the RFS. This, in turn would encourage waste materials to be removed from our public lands for biofuels production which will assist in reducing fire danger.

The 2008 Farm Bill also included several incentives for the production of cellulosic ethanol based on this definition of "Renewable Biomass." These incentives included grants and loan guarantees for cellulosic ethanol plants and provisions of the Biomass Crop Assistance Program.

The legislation requires that slash and other materials are harvested in accordance with applicable law and management plans and in compliance with the requirements for old-growth maintenance, restoration, and management according to the Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003.

According to a 2005 U.S. Department of Energy and U.S. Department of Agriculture study, about two 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, not counting post-commercial waste such as wood chips from paper mills.

Thune introduced similar bipartisan legislation in March of 2009 and sees an even greater need for this correction due to the more than 20 percent increase in oil prices this year.