Renewable fuels essential to energy policy

Renewable fuels essential to energy policy By Stephanie Herseth Congress has again begun to debate how to craft a national energy policy that will address our country's energy needs and challenges for decades to come. I am eager to have this debate, because I believe that renewable fuels, including ethanol and biodiesel, must play a central role in our national energy policy.

In the coming weeks and months, the House and Senate will debate the energy bill, and I have been working with my colleagues from the Great Plains to increase support for ethanol and biodiesel in the Energy Bill.

Recently, I introduced the Fuels Security Act of 2005 to create a renewable fuels standard mandating the use of 8 billion gallons of renewable motor vehicle fuels by 2012. Importantly, this bill has bipartisan support, including neighbors like Rep. Tom Osborne (R-NE), Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN), and Rep. Steve King (R-IA). Both Sen. Johnson and Sen. Thune have co-sponsored companion legislation in the Senate.

Like many South Dakotans, I have a strong interest in renewable fuels for several reasons. South Dakota is, of course, a major corn producing state and one of the top five ethanol producing states in the nation. In fact, South Dakota alone has the capacity to produce more than 450 million gallons of clean, renewable ethanol per year.

Nationwide, when we complete all of the ethanol plant projects that are currently under construction, we will have the capacity to produce almost 4.4 billion gallons of ethanol in the U.S. each year. That number doesn't even take into consideration all of the plants that are in the planning stages.

Increasing the standard to 8 billion gallons will provide incentive for new ethanol plants to be built across the region, and in South Dakota, by 2012.

Additionally, development of homegrown, renewable energy sources, such as ethanol and biodiesel, is a fundamental form of homeland and energy security. It puts our energy needs in our hands, and reduces the power of OPEC over our economic stability.

As gas prices skyrocket, investing in renewable energy sources is a powerful way to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and develop homegrown sources that are clean, efficient and environmentally friendly. And in many rural states like South Dakota, renewable energy development, especially ethanol, has become a proven economic driver, creating new and high-paying jobs.

Importantly, renewable fuels have become a national issue with growing support across the country. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that governors from 33 states are pushing to expand use of ethanol as a vehicle-fuel additive � that's two-thirds of the governors in the United States. They recognize that ethanol creates jobs, is good for the environment and is good public policy.

Agriculture is a part of our heritage and is still the primary driver of South Dakota's economy. I will continue to support renewable fuels and other value-added agriculture projects.

that take advantage of our production strengths.

It's key to the future of our state, and to ensuring that the next generation of farmers and ranchers can continue to work the land that they love.

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