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Published December 02, 2013, 09:16 AM

Other sources of ethanol needed

Now is the time to find alternatives.

By: Rapid City (S.D.) Journal,

The Renewable Fuels Standard was created by Congress in 2005 and required oil companies to add ethanol to gasoline. Beginning with a 4 billion gallon requirement in 2006, the following year President George W. Bush called for increasing the amount of renewable and alternative fuels produced by 2017 to 35 billion gallons.

We joined South Dakota elected officials in embracing adding ethanol to fuel, first from corn and from other biofuel sources, including waste from timber operations in the Black Hills National Forest and elsewhere.

Back then, the overriding concern was the use of a domestically produced fuel additive instead of importing more oil, including from the volatile Middle East. The RFS also provided the state’s producers with another market for their corn crop.

The vast expansion into ethanol as fuel has had unforeseen consequences, including higher corn prices ($1.95 a bushel in 2005 to $7.13 a bushel in March 2013) that has led to an increase in prices at the grocery store and feed prices for livestock producers; encouraging farmers to plow land set aside for conservation for the more lucrative corn market, leading to fewer pheasants and other birds and animals; and an increase in environmental damage caused by using more fertilizer, as detailed in a series of Associated Press stories carried by the Rapid City Journal and other newspapers.

The Environmental Protection Agency announced recently a reduction in the RFS from 16.55 million gallons to 15.21 million gallons this year.

Sens. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., and John Thune, R-S.D., blasted the EPA’s decision. “I’m very disappointed in the EPA’s announcement today proposing to lower the RFS targets below current levels,” Johnson said. “The ethanol industry has a $3.8 billion economic impact in South Dakota. This proposal will negatively affect farmers, ethanol producers and communities throughout the state.”

With a record amount of domestic oil production and more fuel-efficient vehicles on the highways, the need for ethanol is less than it has been.

Despite the problems detailed by the AP series on ethanol, we still support the RFS and research into biofuels.

We have questioned whether enough corn could be grown or diverted to ethanol to meet the 2007 RFS of 35 million gallons of renewable fuels by 2017. It now appears that there is only half as much demand for renewable fuel additives as will be required by 2017.

What happened with the push for more cellulosic ethanol produced from grasses and wood chips, including forest byproducts produced in the Black Hills? With all the questions being raised about corn-based ethanol, now would be a good time to push for other ethanol sources.

Editor’s note: This editorial appeared in the Rapid City (S.D.) Journal Nov. 20.

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