Gel It

Keeping one's hands clean at work is always important, but is especially so during the COVID-19 pandemic. U.S. Sens. John Thune and Mike Rounds, both R-S.D., are sponsoring legislation they believe will help meet the nation's need for hand sanitizer, while also helping America's ethanol industry.

As of 4 p.m. Friday, 74 South Dakotans had lost their lives due to COVID-19, according to the state Department of Health website. While this is but a fraction of the thousands of deaths state leaders feared may occur upon making projections in April, the battle against the disease is far from won.

State leaders continue to recommend social distancing; the wearing of a cloth mask while in enclosed areas with others; and thorough hand-washing and sanitizing.

The main ingredient in hand sanitizer is alcohol, typically ethyl alcohol, which is more commonly known as ethanol. On Thursday, U.S. John Thune, R-S.D., introduced legislation that would extend for two years the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) “Temporary Policy for Preparation of Certain Alcohol-Based Hand Sanitizer Products During the Public Health Emergency.” U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., is a cosponsor of the measure.

“The COVID-19 health pandemic has hit a wide spectrum of industries in our economy – including biofuels, as the demand for fuel has gone down,” Thune said upon introducing the legislation. “While I recognize the amount of ethanol required for hand sanitizer will be a drop in the bucket for our ethanol producers, every bit helps, and American ethanol producers stand ready to help America get through these tough times.”

According to Thune, extending the FDA’s guidance would grant additional certainty for ethanol operations that have made investments or changes in operations to serve the current and projected need for hand sanitizer, providing a longer timeline to recoup such costs.

American Coalition for Ethanol CEO Brian Jennings thanked Thune for the measure.

“Sanitizer production has helped keep some plants open and their workers employed during this downturn, all the while keeping their communities safer. Producers need some level of certainty that they won’t be inflicted with more regulatory whiplash after spending precious capital to retool their plants to provide sanitizer as Americans begin to slowly return to their normal activities,” Jennings said. “ACE thanks Senator Thune for introducing legislation to provide greater certainty to ethanol producers about the investments they have made to respond to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic by supplying alcohol for sanitizer.”

Stephanie Batchelor is vice president of the Washington, D.C.-based Biotechnology Innovation Organization’s industrial and environmental section.

“Biotechnology has enabled the sustainable fuels industry to step up in the fight to protect the public against COVID-19 by repurposing their facilities to produce hand sanitizer,” Batchelor said. “BIO thanks Senator Thune for introducing legislation to provide regulatory certainty to producers who have made the investment to help combat this disease.”

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