Charlie Hoffman: The key to ethanol's success in South Dakota is carbon capture
As a state representative in District 23, it is my mission to ensure our farmers have the support they need to continue feeding and fueling the world. I pay close attention to the trends affecting the industry and listen intently to the concerns of corn growers like my brother.
I am consistently fascinated with how the agricultural industry in South Dakota and the entire state’s well-being are interconnected. Farming in South Dakota contributes $32.5 billion annually to our economy, 132,105 jobs, and more than $497 million in state and local taxes. Still, as is the case with any industry, there comes a time when we must adapt to remain successful.
The emergence of ethanol is an excellent example of agriculture’s evolution. Through exciting innovation, ethanol producers created a new market for corn, drastically boosting demand. Today, this industry consumes nearly half of South Dakota-grown corn and represents a reliable market for farmers. It is a critical resource for the South Dakota agricultural community and our state’s economy, but challenges like small-refinery waivers, COVID-19 and now electric vehicles are forcing ethanol producers to look for new ways to compete in the future.
It’s important to recognize how integral ethanol has become to the entire agricultural industry. Not only do these plants produce fuel, but they also provide high-quality dried distiller grains for our state’s livestock. I fear failing to maintain a healthy ethanol industry would send a devastating ripple effect through South Dakota and even across the United States.
Fortunately, multiple ethanol plants in South Dakota are taking steps to bolster their competitiveness for the future. By lowering a plant’s carbon emissions, the fuel it produces becomes marketable in states that require low-carbon standards. Gaining access to these low-carbon fuel markets allows ethanol plants to sell their product at a premium, strengthening the demand for corn. Make no mistake, we are being forced by a federal mandate at all costs to lower carbon dioxide emissions to as close to zero as we can get.
More than 30 ethanol plants in the Midwest, including seven in South Dakota, have joined a project that will help them gain access to these new markets. The project’s developer, Summit Carbon Solutions, will retrofit the plants with the equipment necessary to capture carbon dioxide emissions that would otherwise be released into the air. The carbon will then travel via pipeline to North Dakota, where it will be safely sequestered deep underground It is likely that by the end of the decade, ethanol plants partnering with Summit Carbon will reach net-zero carbon emissions.
When considering the future of agriculture and what is needed to ensure our industry thrives for generations to come, I am thrilled to see such innovation here at home. I am also confident in Summit Carbon Solutions, a Midwest-based company, to carry out the successful installation and operation of this ever-important project. Facts do matter as I have personally witnessed untruths being spread by certain groups on the scientific scope of this operation. I ask only that both sides are fairly represented. Hence, this opinion piece.
Summit Carbon Solutions has deep roots in agriculture. Its leaders understand the needs of farmers and are committed to building meaningful partnerships in their mission to serve our industry.
I encourage all corn growers, local leaders and South Dakotans to join me in supporting Summit Carbon Solutions’ efforts to bolster ethanol and create a secure future for farming.
State Rep. Charlie Hoffman, R-Eureka, is rancher, forage specialist and wildlife enthusiast. He has served as a member of the Judiciary Committee and House Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources, including two years as Ag Committee chairman. He also serves on the board of the South Dakota Ag Land Trust.