Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth Sandlin came to Madison today to host a public forum on renewable energy. Our District 8 Legislative candidates—Scott Parsley, Mitch Fargen, and Gerry Lange—joined her to talk about what we can do at the state and federal levels to help America kick its oil addiction and get safer, cleaner energy from our own renewable resources. I'll have some video of the candidates' opening remarks up later today; for now, here are some notes from the general discussion:
—Scott Parsley captures the paradox of the day: In response to a question about the difficulties of making incentives for wind power happen, Parsley says, "One of the good things about South Dakota when you look at things like this is that we don't have many taxes. One of the bad things about South Dakota when you look at things like this is, we don't have many taxes."
—Herseth Sandlin notes that other states in our region have moved ahead of us. She suggests that South Dakota needs to adopt a renewable energy standard analogous to the federal renewable fuels standards.
—Renewable energy initial costs are higher, says Parsley; that's why we have to maintain the renewable energy tax credit and support these new industries as they work to become competitive with established industries. Energy in general is cheap in South Dakota, which makes wind a harder sell. But in other parts of the country, energy is more expensive, meaning wind is financially more attractive. That's another reason it's important to build transmission lines to get our South Dakota wind power out to other markets.
—Fargen noted that he runs his Taurus on E-30 and actually gets 2–3 miles per gallon better mileage on E-30 than he does on E-10! Fargen mentions American Coalition of Ethanol studies that have found similar mileage advantages for E-30 and E-40 over E-10. He also notes that he's saving money per mile. E-85, he admits, will get lower mileage, but the cost savings will offset.
—Herseth Sandlin reminds us the "food versus fuel" argument was pushed by big grocery interests and Big Oil to "ruin the reputation of ethanol." It took time for Herseth Sandlin and her colleagues to debunk those scare tactics, but she thinks she's been successful in setting those ethanol opponents back. She also reminds us that John McCain repeated last night that he would eliminate ethanol subsidies and lift the tariff on sugar-cane-based ethanol from Brazil. Herseth Sandlin says we need a President Obama to work with the Democratic Congress to support ethanol.
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