Senator Tim Johnson | Working for South Dakota
Working for South Dakota

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Rapid City | Aberdeen | Sioux Falls


Today in the Senate

January 6, 2015:

The Senate will next convene on Tuesday, January 6, 2015, at 12:00 noon.






Tim visits the site of a planned ethanol plant in Redfield, SD
Tim visits the site of a planned ethanol plant in Redfield, SD

As a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, I have worked for sound energy policies that will not only decrease our dependence on fossil fuels, but will also create new markets and industries in South Dakota, including working to establish the first nationwide Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

Congress must take a comprehensive approach that tackles the root causes of unstable supplies and price increases for energy. High gasoline and diesel fuel prices, as well as significant jumps in the costs of heating and cooling homes are putting increasing pressure on family budgets. Rising energy prices also increase the cost of agricultural production, manufacturing, and transportation of goods, all of which resonate throughout our economy.

We need to deploy a variety of policies to address the broad array of issues impacting our markets, including increased supplies and more production of resources for a long-term solution, regulation of certain speculative trading practices in order to bring short-term price relief, and greater use of renewable fuels and investments in energy efficiency to decrease the demand for non-renewable energy. Ultimately, there is no silver bullet that will reduce fuel prices immediately. However, I believe that the following policies, if enacted, will over time lower prices and smooth out energy markets.

Renewable Energy

Biofuels play an important role in developing a more stable, domestically-controlled fuel supply that benefits the U.S. economy, the environment, and our energy security. We need energy policies that will not only decrease our dependence on fossil fuels, but will also create new markets and industries in South Dakota. As a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, I have worked to strengthen markets for South Dakota's ethanol facilities and increase production of soy-based biodiesel by promoting a robust renewable fuels standard (RFS).

As a senior member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, I have led efforts to increase the amount of renewable fuels produced in the United States. In 2001, I joined Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE) in sponsoring one of the first bills to create a nationwide Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), and in 2005 it was my RFS amendment that the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee adopted to create the framework for the comprehensive energy bill Congress passed that year. Displacing foreign sources of energy strengthens our economy by lowering the trade deficit and enhances our national security by decreasing oil imports from hostile regions of the world. The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 goes a step further toward accomplishing those two goals. The RFS included in the bill will ensure a minimum level of 15 billion gallons of ethanol in 2015 creates a new standard for producing next generation biofuels from switch grass, wood waste and other non-grain feedstocks. The 2007 energy bill will not only help our nation become more energy independent, but it will advance existing and new efforts to produce energy in South Dakota.

Another key component of our country's energy policy should be increased deployment of solar, geothermal, and wind energy resources for electricity generation. The renewable energy production tax credit (PTC) has proven to be a valuable tool for enhancing the growth of the wind energy industry in South Dakota and throughout the Midwest, and this valuable incentive must be extended. A report by the United States Department of Energy found that it is possible for wind power to provide up to 20% of our nation's electricity demand by 2030. Achieving this goal will not only lessen the need for fossil fuels, but will also create tremendous opportunities for South Dakota's economy to harness our ample wind resources.

Addressing Excessive Speculation

I support legislation in the Senate that bolsters oversight and reduces excessive speculation in oil markets by hedge funds and other financial speculators. Not all speculation is bad, and futures markets play important price discovery and planning functions, but I am convinced that unchecked speculation is responsible for a portion of the historic run-up in energy prices.

Expanding Domestic Oil and Natural Gas Production

We must also pursue long-term solutions to increase domestic oil and natural gas production. I support expanding oil and gas production in areas with proven oil reserves and the pipeline and refining infrastructure necessary to bring additional supplies to market quickly and efficiently. In 2006, I backed one of the largest expansions of oil and gas leasing in the Gulf of Mexico in the past twenty years, opening up 8 million acres for exploration. I also support authorizing exploration of additional lands in the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans to increase the production of domestic energy supplies.

A coherent and comprehensive policy must also recognize that the United States is home to only 3% of the world's proven oil reserves but uses 25% of the world's daily oil output. We must improve the efficiency of our cars and trucks and improve the energy efficiency of our manufacturing sector, as well as our homes and businesses, to cut demand for natural gas.

Energy Efficiency and Conservation

Congress took strong steps on efficiency and conservation measures in passing the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. This landmark legislation increases fuel economy standards and authorizes new ways to save energy in the types of appliances and lights Americans purchase. The Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) provisions included in the bill require that passenger cars and light trucks achieve a combined fuel economy average of at least 35 miles per gallon by 2020, marking a 40% increase over today's standards.

Reaching Across the Aisle: The Gang of 16

We need a comprehensive approach to reduce energy prices that examines short and long-term options. Accordingly, I joined the bipartisan coalition led by Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND) and Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) known informally as the "Gang of 10." This group, now 16 strong, supports an energy proposal to reduce gas prices, lessen our nation's dependence on foreign oil, and strengthen America's economy. For more information on this bipartisan effort, click here.

American Coalition for Ethanol


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