Within the next two weeks a senate committee will debate the idea of forcing people to buy only ethanol-blended at Iowa gas stations. Senate Co-President Jack Kibbie, a democrat from Emmetsburg, is the main senate backer of the mandate to require a 10-percent ethanol blend only. “I think the time to promote ethanol is when it’s flourishing,” Kibbie says. “Today, with cheap corn in Iowa and high-priced gas, the ethanol plants are doing great.” A new ethanol plant will open in Kibbie’s hometown of Emmetsburg this month, and soon Iowa will become the nation’s top ethanol producing state. “So it’s time for us to act on this issue,” Kibbie says. “It ought to be a no-brainer.” Kibbie also wants the state to provide grants to stations that install pumps that dispense 85 percent ethanol fuel — known as E-85. Kibbie says it’ll help get one E-85 outlet in every county. There are about a dozen stations that offer E-85 today, and about 45-thousand “flexible fuel” vehicles in Iowa that can burn the higher-concentration of ethanol. The petroleum industry wants nationwide rather than state-by-state rules for fuels, and ethanol was ridiculed during last week’s episode of the nationally-televised program “West Wing.” Senate Co-Leader Michael Gronstal, a democrat from Council Bluffs, says the show cited faulty data. “I think there really were some legitimate critics of ethanol in the late ’70s and early ’80s, but those folks are looking at numbers that are literally 25 or 30 years old,” Gronstal says. “The numbers now on ethanol clearly show that it’s a net benefit for the environment. It’s a net benefit for our country in terms of less imported oil.”