Energy independence the goal
By CRYSTAL R. REID
Achieving energy independence through an aggressive mixture of renewable energy sources and fossil fuels was a recurring subject at Bismarck State College on Monday.
Nearly 150 people attended the Renewable Energy Action Summit on Monday, hosted by Bismarck State College, Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., Gov. John Hoeven and Kadrmas Lee &Jackson Inc.
Wind transmission, federal and local renewable energy initiatives, and specifically the ethanol industry were the topics for discussion during the one-day conference, which featured Andy Karsner, former U.S. assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy, as the keynote speaker.
Karsner emphasized energy independence for the nation.
"We are the creators, the innovators,"he said. "That is the best available."
He cited exciting moves forward, including standards for vehicular efficiency and a waiver that is pending with the Environmental Protection Agency for a 15 percent blend of ethanol and gasoline. Consumers have the option of E10 at most pumps, or E85 if their vehicles are equipped for it.
That waiver was filed by Tom Buis, who wrapped up the day of presentations with his staunch defense of ethanol.
Buis is the former president of the National Farmers Union and currently the chief executive officer of Growth Energy, representing ethanol producers in America.
He emphasized that the ethanol industry would greatly benefit from an increased blend, and that the move would reduce America's oil imports by 7 percent, add 136,000 new jobs, double the contribution to the nation's gross domestic product and help revitalize rural communities.
But the market needs to be created first, he said. Overproduction and distrust of ethanol is harming the industry. This year, at least one ethanol plant in North Dakota is facing fiscal uncertainty.
Karsner said that similar arguments against unleaded gasoline surfaced when the nation began moving away from leaded gasoline.
Critics of ethanol say it has resulted in a rise in grocery goods, from tortillas to beer to toothpaste. Ethanol has been painted as a beast that takes more energy to produce than it provides, that it's bad for engines and food, and, ultimately, business.
Buis countered all points, saying there are as many acres of yellow corn in production as there were in the '80s, but the yields are higher. He said most of the producers blaming ethanol for rising prices of their products don't use yellow corn, and that the gas-additive is much more efficient than it was to begin with.
"The industry is changing,"he said. "We don't produce ethanol the way we did 30 years ago."
But the industry continues to suffer, and Hoeven, Dorgan, Buis and Karsner all spoke on their support for a waiver for E15.
Dorgan said E15 should become a long-term part of the energy future, and that the North Dakota industry would immediately benefit from the waiver.
Other speakers included Shane Goettle, commissioner of the North Dakota Department of Commerce and Empower ND; Jonna Hamilton, energy and environment assistant for Dorgan; Mark Nisbet of Excel Energy; and several other speakers form the renewable energy industry.
This is the third annual Renewable Energy Action Summit; this year's summit was hosted in Bismarck State College's new National Center for Energy Excellence.
(Reach Crystal R. Reid at 250-8261 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)