North Dakota Drops Ball on Wind and Biofuels

State representative Phil Mueller writes that despite North Dakota's abundant supply of the raw materials necessary for the development of renewable energy, it lags behind neighboring states.

Published: 21-Mar-2005

Much has been written and spoken about our nation's appetite for gasoline, electrical power, diesel fuel, natural gas, and the list goes on. This nation's use and consumption of energy has created the most mobile, industrialized, and creative country in the world.

But the world and this country are coming to grips with the realization that energy from fossilized sources such as coal and oil won't last forever. Many sources of that fossil fuel are in very unstable parts of the world like the Middle East. It is also fact that technology and Mother Nature have provided renewable energy sources, especially in North Dakota.

Wind for electricity, ethanol from corn for gasoline, and biodiesel fuel from soybeans are all substantially cleaner than their fossil fuel counterparts, and can greatly reduce our dependence on foreign energy.

North Dakota has an abundant supply of the raw materials necessary for the development of renewable energy. Wind, corn and soybeans are North Dakota products that could be turned into energy with the right infrastructure. The Midwest agriculture states around North Dakota have made great strides in developing that alternative renewable energy infrastructure. North Dakota is behind our neighbor states.

North Dakota produces 33.5 million gallons of ethanol annually from its two plants. South Dakota's 10 plants produce 422 million gallons each year. Minnesota's 14 ethanol plants produce 391 million gallons yearly. Ethanol production reduces our nation's dependence on foreign oil by 128,000 barrels of oil each day.

North Dakota is ranked number one in wind energy potential, but it ranks 13th in the country in installed wind generating capacity.

Many of us in the 59th Legislature were excited to help get the renewable fuels infrastructure in place for North Dakota. Many legislators spoke of their support for helping provide the legislative incentives needed to build ethanol, biodiesel, and wind energy facilities. Not all have followed through with support.

Both Senate Bill 2229 and House Bill 1308 would have provided similar tax incentives, renewable fuel usage requirements, and funding that would have spurred renewable energy development in North Dakota. Both bills would have created a renewable energy commission that would have provided direction and research for renewables. Both bills were defeated in the chambers of origin. The bills were not perfect. Few are, but keeping them alive for further work would have been the right thing to do for North Dakota farmers, for the environment, and for America.

Mueller, D-Wimbeldon, N.D., has served District 24 in the N.D. House since 1999. He serves on the Education Committee and the Agriculture Committee.

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