Iowa is the nation’s number-one corn grower and the top ethanol producer — and ethanol use would double nationwide within seven years under a provision approved Wednesday by the U.S. Senate. Iowa Senator Tom Harkin introduced the legislation which he says is “vital to securing America’s energy future.” Harkin says oil refiners would be required to blend eight-billion gallons of ethanol and biodiesel every year, more than twice the current rate, by 2012. “Great news for Iowa,” says Harkin, “and a major step toward reducing our dependence on oil from the Middle East.” Harkin says the legislation goes beyond corn-based ethanol.He says it also extends wind energy tax benefits to 2008 and biodiesel tax credits through 2010, while modernizing the electricity grid and pushing a host of other energy efficiency and conservation measures. Another democrat senator, Charles Schumer of New York, called the ethanol resolution a “boondoggle” that will raise gas prices. Harkin laughed that off. He says he told Schumer on the Senate floor that Iowa drivers are paying ten-cents a gallon less because they’re using ethanol. A release from Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley about the larger Energy Bill says “I believe public policy ought to promote renewable domestic production that uses renewable energy and fosters economic development. Alternative energy development provides economic benefits to farmers, ranchers and forest land owners, such as those in Iowa who have launched efforts to diversify the state’s economy and to find creative ways to extract a greater return from abundant natural resources.”