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Rep. Johnson joins Kansas Democrats to form sustainable aviation fuel caucus • South Dakota Searchlight

South Dakota's lone U.S. representative has joined forces with a Democrat from Kansas to form a congressional caucus to address sustainable aviation fuel.

Republican Rep. Dusty Johnson of South Dakota announced the formation of the Congressional Sustainable Aviation Caucus in a press release Monday, saying, “Congress should advance legislative priorities that support biofuel innovation, national security and passenger safety.”

Democratic Rep. Sharice Davids of Kansas will co-chair the group with Johnson.

“Embracing these sustainable practices is critical to our national security and economic resilience,” Davids said in the release. “I am pleased to work with Rep. Johnson to ensure America's aviation industry remains resilient and reliable for years to come.”

Opponents of a CO2 pipeline doubt the safety of a $1 billion corn-based jet fuel project

South Dakota could play a role in the emergence of a sustainable jet fuel industry. Currently, the fuel makes up only a tiny fraction of the jet fuel used in the U.S., but federal financial incentives have spurred the creation of new companies and projects that could expand its reach. Current federal subsidies offer $1.25 per gallon of fuel blended with conventional jet fuel. To qualify as a fuel, it must reduce “lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions” by at least 50%, and for each additional percentage point reduction, manufacturers are entitled to an additional cent in subsidies.

Colorado-based Gevo plans to build its Net-Zero 1 sustainable jet fuel plant near Lake Preston in South Dakota. The billion-dollar-plus project was announced in 2022, but construction has not yet begun.

The company aims to produce its own corn ethanol and then convert it into sustainable aviation fuel. The company hopes to minimize its greenhouse gas emissions through a combination of low-carbon farming practices used by its contract farmers and sequestering the carbon released in the production process.

Lieutenant Governor Larry Rhoden appeared at the groundbreaking for Net-Zero 1, Governor Kristi Noem praised the project in her 2023 State of the State address, and Noem's son-in-law Kyle Peters is lobbying for the company.

Gevo CEO Patrick Gruber said the project is dependent on a separate project by Summit Carbon Solutions that would capture carbon dioxide emissions from ethanol plants and pump them through an underground pipeline to North Dakota for storage.

Connecting the Net Zero 1 plant to the carbon pipeline is necessary to maximize the company's carbon reduction footprint and make it economically viable, Gruber said.

The pipeline proposal has angered property rights activists and helped 14 incumbent lawmakers lose in primaries, some of them to pipeline opponents. But ethanol lobbyists are among the groups that see carbon sequestration as critical to the industry's future and a major economic driver in South Dakota and other parts of the Midwest.

An aviation industry lobbyist praised the creation of the Washington DC-based Sustainable Aviation Fuel Working Group in Johnson's press release

“General aviation remains committed to mitigating the industry’s environmental impact through technological and operational improvements and the use of sustainable aviation fuel,” said Paul Feldman, vice president of government affairs for the General Aviation Manufacturers Association.

According to Johnson's office, the new group will help keep voters and other members of Congress informed about efforts to promote the production of sustainable aviation fuels, which are “necessary to advance environmental protections, make fuel supplies more stable, and strengthen national security.”

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Anna Harden

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