Biofuels can contribute now to a cleaner energy future

Growing up in South Dakota, agriculture has always been in my blood.

For nearly three decades, I had the honor of representing South Dakota — where agriculture is the leading industry, with a $21 billion annual impact on the economy — in Congress. During nearly 20 years in the Senate, I worked across the aisle with Republican colleagues, many with dramatically different viewpoints on policy, to pass a wide range of agriculture-related legislation. Highlights included working with Bob Dole to pass the “clean octane” amendment to the 1990 Clean Air Act, and 10 years later, teaming up with Richard Lugar to introduce what would become the first renewable fuel standard.

It became clear to me early on that a robust domestic biofuels industry, including ethanol, would not only be good for farmers and our rural economy but also for the environment, public health and the nation’s energy security. Unfortunately, confusion and misinformation — about ethanol’s effects on food prices and vehicle performance — have hindered the realization of these benefits.

Called “the world’s most important food crop” in one Washington Post article, corn has a unique ability to help with climate change, absorbing one-third more carbon from the atmosphere than most other plants. Only 3 percent of plants have this characteristic, but they account for 23 percent of all terrestrial carbon fixation.

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