Why are we trying to change the rules for ethanol in the middle of the game?

Did you ever play a board game with an older sibling when you were a kid.. where your older brother or sister suddenly changed the game rules in the middle of the game because you figured out a strategy that had you beating them?

That’s a lot like what’s going on in the South Dakota Legislature this year where opponents of pipelines, in this case carbon sequestration pipelines, have found allies in the legislature who are willing to help them change the rules in the middle of the game. Rules that the ethanol producers have invested millions in following, just like every other organization that has proposed a pipeline in the past.

Except, because they’re transporting something that they would normally release in the atmosphere, and the process has “carbon” in the name,  there are those who think it’s appropriate to change the rules.

In case you haven’t noticed, ethanol production has been under fire in the House of Representatives this session with bills that are directed expressly at the industry’s ability to transport the byproducts of it’s production. A number of bills have been brought, solely from the House, with Senate sponsorship of these measures few and far between.  While the measures are introduced under the auspices of reforming eminent domain, if you look at the way they are written, they are less about talking about the legal issues and notices than attacking the ethanol industry for moving forward with projects under existing law.

Think about it. They’re trying to change the rules for a value added agriculture project conceived under long-standing law.  And they’re trying to kick over the checker board.

Take House Bill 1133 for example, a bill up on the House floor today that was allegedly introduced to “define a commodity for the purpose of qualifying as a common carrier.”  It seemingly adds language to the law saying that everyone is a common carrier.. except you guys.  Where the new definition they’ve created says… For purposes of this section, the term, commodity, means a product that is intended for commerce and is being transported to a point of distribution, consumption, or processing, within or outside of this state. The term does not include a product that is disposed of in geological storage…

How is that not a targeted attack on the ethanol industry’s effort to keep up with their market, and do “something” with the carbon dioxide other than just release it in the atmosphere?

For all the talk in the legislature about adding value to our agricultural products for our state’s #1 industry, there is an awful lot of legislation that has been introduced to hamstring a homegrown energy industry. In capturing carbon dioxide and transporting it, the ethanol industry is trying to keep pace with the marketplace and respond to a regulatory environment as well as purchasers that demand that their energy production methods meet certain standards to be salable outside of the state.

As one observer remarked after the passage of House Bill 1233, “Why would we be harder on our own product – ethanol – than on gas and oil?“  These arguments against pipelines were not brought up when the keystone XL pipeline was being worked on.  So why on earth is the legislature trying to kick over the checkers board in the middle of the game now?

And it’s a good point. Energy production is big business that pays off in huge revenues to states that produce them.  Unfortunately, we don’t have the petroleum reserves that our neighbor to the North has.  We have open space and our farmers have the ability to grow things.

If you look at what has been introduced in the legislature this year regarding adding value to South Dakota ag products, only one bill was introduced regarding meat and meat productsAnd that was withdrawn. But when it comes to stopping pipelines that are for the purpose of improving the return on a value added ag product, there are no fewer than six bills trying to change the rules in the middle of the process.  

The legislature – especially Republicans – need to take a step back, look at the big picture, and renew our commitment to value added agriculture in South Dakota.

10 thoughts on “Why are we trying to change the rules for ethanol in the middle of the game?”

  1. The SD legislature is famous for changing things after voters approve them but when it’s your friend and business partner you’re lobbying for then it warrants a blog post complaining about it. CO2 storage is not a commodity for the general public and Summit can kick rocks.

  2. Kind of like medical experiments, you find out half way through whether you want to do them or not.

    Ethanol is not the best use of the land in my opinion.

    Gasoline is better for IC engines .. as long as we have them.

    The soil is not replenished to its initial state, and the corn doesn’t have the same positive effects on soil health as native grasses with deep roots that also feed cattle.

  3. Jeff Broin shouldn’t have been so short sighted and alienated the half the ag community. Now he’ll have to pay up to get his tax scheme established.

    1. Half the ag community already signed contracts with him. Half the ag community ought to be supporting more ethanol. He’s a friend of ag

  4. There was a time when I was really concerned about CO2 emissions. Until I watched a very interesting man first propose a solution via a TEDx talk in Monterey, California back in 2007.
    I was completely onboard until 10:06 in this video.
    It was at the point where he told us we could, “purchase or acquire carbon offsets” to reduce our carbon footprint that I realized that I was witnessing a whole new “industry” being born that directly fell under the “regulatory” branch of the government.

    With all that said, will the taxpayers gain from this legislation or just the ethanol producers?
    That is the real question Pierre should be asking.

  5. Maybe because carbon is not a commodity? If they want to build the pipeline, go for it. But they should not be able to use eminent domain. The laws and rules for which have been grossly eroded from its original intent. This legislation gives more power and security back to landowners, the people who have been funding a very large part of our state government. Which seems like a much more conservative standpoint than a government giving a private company who isn’t transporting a commodity the right to take privately owned land without the landowners consent.

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