Thune: EPA rules may ‘kill’ ethanol in America

Posted on May 15, 2009. Filed under: Advanced Biofuel, Blender's Tax Credit, Field-to-Pump | Tags: , , , , |

Thune: EPA rules may ‘kill’ ethanol in America

Members of South Dakota’s congressional delegation on Wednesday lashed out at what they perceive as “questionable” and “ridiculous” land-use models that they feel could devastate the American biofuels industry.

By: Korrie Wenzel

The Daily Republic

May 14, 2009


Members of South Dakota’s congressional delegation on Wednesday lashed out at what they perceive as “questionable” and “ridiculous” land-use models that they feel could devastate the American biofuels industry.

Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, in a statement sent to the media, and Sen. John Thune, during a conference call, both derided an Environmental Protection Agency proposal to determine the carbon footprint left by the biofuels industry, and especially in relation to ethanol production. The delegates say the EPA’s proposed standards are based on unscientific, “indirect” uses and would create a much larger carbon footprint than the industry truly has.

If the standards are implemented, they both predict doom for the biofuels industry.

“These new EPA rules … would effectively kill renewable fuels in South Dakota and across the country because of environmental extremism within the EPA,” said Thune, a Republican who grew up in Murdo. “By destroying our biofuels industry, the EPA is undoing a great domestic energy achievement by ensuring our energy dependence on hostile regimes.”

As part of implementing the national Renewable Fuels Standard — which requires the use of 36 billion gallons of renewable fuels by 2022 — the EPA has issued a proposed rule that ethanol plants produce 20 percent less carbon than the gasoline industry. The problem, Thune and Herseth Sandlin said Wednesday, is that the EPA now wants to factor in not only the direct greenhouse gases that result from actual ethanol production, but also the impact of indirect land uses around the world that the EPA has linked to ethanol.

“That could include any changes for any reason that may not have anything to do with ethanol production,” Thune said. “For example, some ethanol detractors incorrectly feel that producing corn for ethanol results in less grain available to feed people and less grain for exports. They believe, then, that if another country tills additional land to raise corn for food, this is an indirect land use (related to ethanol) … and therefore should be calculated into the ethanol industry’s carbon footprint.”

By using such vast indirect land use calculations, Thune said the EPA has concluded that the carbon footprint of the corn ethanol industry is actually 5 percent higher than that of gasoline — not 20 percent lower, as required by the energy bill’s RFS.

Herseth Sandlin, a Democrat from Houghton, calls it a “controversial proposed rule” based on a “questionable model.”

“Simply put,” she said, “EPA’s proposal threatens the progress our nation has made over many years in advancing clean-burning, homegrown biofuels. The future of biofuels, and the many jobs the industry has created, is at stake.”

Thune called the EPA’s proposed standards “ridiculous measurements” based less on science and more on “science fiction.”

South Dakota’s ethanol industry has exploded in recent years. According to statistics from the South Dakota Corn Utilization Council’s Web site, more than 14,000 South Dakotans have invested in some form of ethanol production, and the state’s production is peaking toward 1 billion gallons per year.

Twelve production plants have opened throughout South Dakota, including one in the small town of Loomis, just outside of Mitchell. The Corn Utilization Council notes that the plants have produced approximately $400 million in capital investment for South Dakota.

Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., said Wednesday that the first step should be to “get the science right.”

“There is widespread agreement on the need to measure the emissions of all types of fuels. That is the whole point of ethanol being marketed as a low-emission fuel,” Johnson said in a conference call Wednesday. “What I support is forming a panel of experts to review EPA’s initial assessments and make modifications to how the agency is calculating the emissions from international agriculture practices.”

In addition, the EPA recommends biodiesel plants must be 50 percent cleaner than the gasoline industry, which Thune says is unrealistic.



About Renergie

Renergie was formed by Ms. Meaghan M. Donovan on March 22, 2006 for the purpose of raising capital to develop, construct, own and operate a network of ten ethanol plants in the parishes of the State of Louisiana which were devastated by hurricanes Katrina and Rita.  Each ethanol plant will have a production capacity of five million gallons per year (5 MGY) of fuel-grade ethanol.  Renergie’s “field-to-pump” strategy is to produce non-corn ethanol locally and directly market non-corn ethanol locally. On February 26, 2008, Renergie was one of 8 recipients, selected from 139 grant applicants, to share $12.5 million from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Renewable Energy Technologies Grants Program.  Renergie received $1,500,483 (partial funding) in grant money to design and build Florida’s first ethanol plant capable of producing fuel-grade ethanol solely from sweet sorghum juice. On  April 2, 2008, Enterprise Florida, Inc., the state’s economic development organization, selected Renergie as one of Florida’s most innovative technology companies in the alternative energy sector.  On January 20, 2009, Florida Energy & Climate Commission amended RET Grant Agreement S0386 to increase Renergie’s funding from $1,500,483 to $2,500,000. By blending fuel-grade ethanol with gasoline at the gas station pump, Renergie will offer the consumer a fuel that is renewable, more economical, cleaner, and more efficient than unleaded gasoline.  Moreover, the Renergie project will mark the first time that Louisiana farmers will share in the profits realized from the sale of value-added products made from their crops.


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    Renergie created “field-to-pump," a unique strategy to locally produce and market advanced biofuel (“non-corn fuel ethanol”) via a network of small advanced biofuel manufacturing facilities. The purpose of “field-to-pump” is to maximize rural development and job creation while minimizing feedstock supply risk and the burden on local water supplies.


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