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South Dakota Conference Addresses Impact of Climate Change

September 28, 2007

Sioux Falls, SD – Policymakers, scientists, farmers, business professionals, and sportsmen are gathering in Sioux Falls this weekend for the South Dakota Climate Change Conference to talk about the impact of global warming and how to get the state's renewable industry off the ground through the next Farm Bill.

Andy Olsen with the Environmental Law and Policy Center says clean energy programs are hanging in the balance with the next Farm Bill. They’re hopeful Congress will approve $1 billion per year for the development of alternative energy technologies and sources, on which South Dakota can capitalize.

"We want to develop or expand our investments in biofuels, like ethanol and advanced ethanol, and cellulosic ethanol, as well as wind power and solar. Energy efficiency is also very important, and we want to study converting several fossil fuel plants to biomass."

Olsen says renewables are attractive to South Dakota economically, but there’s also strong public concern about reducing fossil fuel pollution.

"We can rise to this challenge of grappling with global warming. We certainly have the technological know-how. What we really need is the consistent willpower and the long-term commitment from our political leaders. We’re actually reaching a tipping point and we’re seeing that. For example, senators who have been adamantly opposed to acknowledging that human induced global warming is a problem, are now admitting, 'Ok, it’s a problem.'"

Olsen says a major concern is that the Senate Farm Bill will fall far short of where it needs to be in putting together a robust energy title.

"I’m hoping that South Dakotans who care about global warming, and who care about farm energy, will pay attention to this and will make their concerns known to their representatives in Congress. We want them to know that this needs to be a priority and that lawmakers need to champion, not just follow the lead, for clean energy in the Farm Bill."

Organizers say the climate conference is an important event for the state because South Dakota stands to be a big renewable energy winner. Olsen believes a good energy title in the Farm Bill would give the nation five years of effective federal energy policy that would steer the country on a path of clean air technology.

The conference will be held at the Oaks Hotel in Sioux Falls Sept. 28 through 30.

David Law/Eric Mack, Public News Service - SD