Energy issues were the only topic of debate when seven of the candidates for governor spoke at a forum in Cedar Falls organized by the University of Northern Iowa’s Center for Energy and Environmental Education. Republican candidate Bob Vander Plaats said if he’s elected governor, after July 1st of next year all state-owned vehicles would be able to burn E-85, the higher-concentration of ethanol.
Vander Plaats would also force all tax-exempt vehicles to be of the “flexible-fuel” variety, too. That means all vehicles owned by churches, schools and other tax-exempt organizations. Vander Plaats’ G-O-P opponent, Jim Nussle, has proposed requiring every gas pump in Iowa to dispense an ethanol-blended fuel. Vander Plaats said that’s a mandate, and he opposes it. “That is the worst message we can send,” Vander Plaats said. “It’s like me telling my high school senior boy: ‘You must date this girl. That is the last girl (you’ll) ever date.'”
Among the Democrats, Secretary of Agriculture Patty Judge claimed credit for sparking the alternative fuels industry in Iowa. Judge said when she took over as Ag Secretary in 1999, the state had three ethanol plants. Today, Iowa has 21 ethanol production facilities with 14 more in the planning stage. In 1999, Iowa had no biodiesel plants, but now Iowa has four biodiesel facilities and two more under construction.
Michael Blouin resigned from his job as the state director of economic development in July to run for governor, and Blouin said encouraging more use of ethanol is crucial to the state, and the nation. “No one has ever gone to war over corn,” Blouin said.
But State Representative Ed Fallon of Des Moines warned that while there’s an oil cartel in the Middle East, large corporations control the energy industry in this country. Fallon said it’s time to get “big money” out of politics to ensure Iowans control the renewable fuels industry in this state.
Chet Culver, who is currently Iowa’s Secretary of State, drives a flexible-fuel vehicle and he promised to name a director of renewable energy if he’s elected governor. Sal Mohammad and Vernon Weems — two other Democrats running for governor — also appeared at Saturday’s forum.