Daschle: Ethanol industry loses fierce advocate with death of Orrie Swayze

Source: By Tom Daschle, Argus Leader • Posted: Monday, May 31, 2021

As Memorial Day approaches, we are remembering special people who have left us with special memories.

Recently, American agriculture in general and the nation’s corn ethanol industry in particular lost a tireless advocate, fierce champion and dear friend when Orrie Swayze of Wilmot passed away. During the quarter century I was honored to represent South Dakota in the United States Congress, I had the good fortune to work with Orrie as he fought valiantly to advance the best interests of farmers, ranchers, consumers and the environment.

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Orrie’s Vietnam War experience inspired him with a passion to help others, especially children and the most vulnerable among us. His lifelong commitment to building the nation’s ethanol industry was driven as much by that passion as it was by his devotion to American agriculture.

Orrie’s vision and leadership was especially visible in recent years throughout the state of South Dakota as he successfully fought for the use of higher ethanol blends in standard vehicles. Orrie’s chemistry background made him realize that corn ethanol’s superior “clean octane” properties could replace carcinogenic and highly toxic gasoline aromatics, thus saving and improving the lives of millions of Americans and stimulating the rural economy.

South Dakotans recognized Orrie’s enormous contributions when the Legislature in Pierre declared March 3rd, 2021, to be “Orrie Swayze Day.”

These days, I consider myself fortunate to be working with Orrie’s many friends who are dedicated to advancing his “clean octane” dream in Washington, D.C.  With the support of South Dakota’s leaders like Doug Sombke at Farmers Union and Jim Seurer at Glacial Lakes Energy, we are working with the Joe Biden-Kamala Harris administration to amplify the many benefits of a national higher-octane, lower-carbon fuel standard.

Orrie was one of the few visionaries who, 20 years ago, believed that the first Renewable Fuel Standard would be enacted and bring about nationwide E10 usage.  That dream was realized, and nationwide E10 blends have re-energized the Midwestern farm economy. Today, more than 200 highly efficient biorefineries convert the starch portion of more than 5 billion bushels of corn into more than 17 billion gallons of high-octane, low-carbon ethanol each year. With Orrie’s vision to inspire us, our goal is to convince the administration officials to transition the U.S. motor fuels system from a nationwide 10% blend to nationwide E30 over the next 10 years, reducing the nation’s need for imported oil by a billion barrels per year.  At $100 per barrel, that is $100 billion every year that remains in our economy to create quality jobs, educate our children and modernize our infrastructure.

Orrie’s mantra was “E30 by 2030”!  We are eager to bring that call to action to fruition.

Tom Dachle is a former U.S. senator and served as the Senate majority leader. An Aberdeen native, he graduated from South Dakota State University and served in the U.S. Air Force before beginning a career in politics.

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