North Dakota Governor working hard for ethanol

Gov. John Hoeven taking big strides for future ethanol producers on the Northern Plains
By | July 01, 2002
North Dakota Governor John Hoeven is Vice Chair of the Governors' Ethanol Coalition. He recently mandated that all North Dakota fleet vehicles use 10 percent ethanol-blended fuel. North Dakota currently has just two ethanol plants, but several groups are exploring plans to build facilities in the state in the near future.

EPM: Will more ethanol plants be built in North Dakota? How much ethanol production would you like to see in the state?

Hoeven: Yes, we expect to see more ethanol plants in North Dakota. We are pursuing a multi-resource energy strategy in our state, including coal, oil, gas, wind, biodiesel and, of course, ethanol. As an agricultural state, moreover, ethanol is a natural for us. We currently have two ethanol-producing plants in North Dakota, which combined produce 34 million gallons of ethanol annually. I hope the state will soon have one or more new ethanol facilities that will double, or even triple, the state's production.

EPM: In the long term, how could ethanol production positively affect North Dakota and add value to the crops North Dakota farmers grow?

Hoeven: Energy development and agriculture represent two of the six pillars on which we are building our future in North Dakota. With ethanol, our efforts in energy production and agriculture dovetail nicely - and that promises to be the case for some time to come in light of the renewable fuels standard currently pending in the new energy bill. It is no secret that the real value in any agricultural product is not in production; it is in processing. A box of cereal can sell for twice as much as a bushel of corn. By processing corn and other crops here in our state, rather than exporting them elsewhere, we create jobs for our citizens and new markets for our farmers - and we "add value" to what they grow. Ethanol is good example. A bushel of corn will produce about two-and-a-half gallons of ethanol, which may add about 20 percent of added value to the commodity. Plus, much of the feed value of the corn is retained for livestock, adding additional value. Add jobs and the potential to revitalize our rural economies to the mix and ethanol production is a clear winner for North Dakota. Ethanol production creates new markets, added value, and therefore greater independence, for our farmers.

EPM: Does ethanol have bipartisan support in North Dakota? If so, why?

Hoeven: Ethanol does have bipartisan support. Creating jobs and new opportunities for our farmers isn't a partisan issue. No matter where you stand on the political spectrum, ethanol is clearly good for our farmers, good for our environment and good for our economy.

EPM: Why do you support the renewable fuels standard that is currently pending in the national energy bill?

Hoeven: The renewable fuels standard favorably addresses three important issues for us in North Dakota and nationally: it is healthy for our environment, healthy for our economy and healthy for our security, in that it reduces our dependence on imported oil. MTBE will be banned or restricted in 13 states by 2003-2004, and those states will have to find a way to meet the oxygen requirements of the Clean Air Act Amendment of 1990. Ethanol, as a clean alternative to MTBE, fills that need. I recently chaired a meeting of the National Governors Association Natural Resources Committee and the topic of discussion was "Achieving and Maintaining Clean Air through National Energy Policy" and "Putting Clean Energy To Work." I invited Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham to address the group. We discussed the relationship between clean air and national energy policy, and how the private sector is moving forward to show leadership. What became clear in the course of the discussion was the fact that modern energy policy must factor the environment into the equation in order to succeed. That's what we are doing in North Dakota, and that promises to be national policy going forward.

EPM: In January, you directed the state fleet to use 10 percent ethanol-blended fuel. What factors helped you make this decision?

Hoeven: We have two ethanol plants in North Dakota, and we have seen interest in building more plants in the near future. As a state, I felt it was essential that we demonstrate a commitment to developing this industry, not merely in word, but in deed. The best way to do that, I thought, was to become a committed customer of the product. In adopting an ethanol blended fuel in state vehicles, we were able to take a step toward greater ethanol production and at the same time demonstrate a commitment to maintaining our pristine air quality in North Dakota, which, incidentally, is one of only 14 state's in the nation that meets all national ambient air quality standards.

What makes ethanol production a natural fit in North Dakota?

Hoeven: North Dakota is the leading agricultural producer of 13 major commodities, and more than 70 crops in all. At the same time, we are the sixth leading energy producing and exporting state in the country, committed to expanding our energy capacity using multiple traditional and alternative energy resources, such as coal, natural gas, wind and biodiesel. We are aggressively promoting development of value-added agriculture enterprises in our state, and the imminent increase in demand for ethanol makes it a perfect ag-energy partnership in our state. In North Dakota we grow corn, barley and other crops that can be processed into ethanol. Our agricultural sector can more than meet the demand for ethanol production. Add to these a plentiful water supply for manufacturing, an educated workforce with an incomparable work ethic, and you have all the ingredients for ethanol production