President Bush’s call for ending America’s reliance on foreign oil gets a mixed response from members of Iowa’s congressional delegation who sat through Bush’s State of the Union speech last (Tuesday) night. Senator Charles Grassley, a Republican from New Hartford, says using “homegrown” fuels like ethanol as the president suggests will help everybody’s pocketbook. Grassley says Iowa will be a beneficiary as he predicts the state’s ethanol industry will triple its output in the next few years.
The president also mentioned greater use of other “renewable” materials, like switchgrass, to help supply the nation’s energy needs and Grassley says that’s significant. “Anything that’s got cellulose in it, you can make ethanol out of it,” Grassley says. “Where are we headed on ethanol? Way beyond producing it from corn.”
But Senator Tom Harkin, a Democrat from Cumming, doubts the president will follow through. “If there’s one thing we’ve learned about Bush and the State of the Union speech, a promise made is not a promise kept. In 2003 he said ‘Our third goal is to promote energy independence for our country while dramatically improving the environment,'” Harkin says. “Three years later, our dependence on foreign oil grew and we have record high gas prices.” Harkin says what the president said last night “sounded good” but Harkin doubts the Bush Administration will “do anything.”
But Congressman Steve King, a Republican from Kiron, says Bush laid out energy independence as a “fine and shining” goal. “It’ll be great for Iowa and great for the United States if we can get there,” King says. King, though, did find something lacking in the president’s energy agenda, too. “What’s missing is drilling (for oil) in Anwar and drilling in the outer continental shelf,” King says. “I intend to push that as hard as I can.”
Congressman Jim Leach, a Republican from Iowa City, says “spoke well” about ethanol and the promise of renewable fuels but failed to mention conservation. “The biggest no-brainer public policy issue in energy, if not in all domestic affairs, is the need to increase the mile-per-gallon standards (for vehicles),” Leach says. “We cannot continue to consume as much petroleum and not to put an emphasis on conservation, I think, was probably an error.”
Congressman Tom Latham, a Republican from Alexander, says the over-all tone of the speech was positive. “The president was very optimistic about our country and our future,” Latham says. “As far as issues for us, I think it’s very important what he was talking about when he mentioned ethanol and expanding research and technology in that regard.”
Neither Congressman Leonard Boswell nor Congressman Jim Nussle spoke with Radio Iowa by phone last night. In a prepared statement, Congressman Boswell, a Democrat from Des Moines, said he’s “pleased” the President proposed new energy initiatives. “At a time when one of the major oil companies reported a quarterly profit of over $10 billion, and people are paying well over $2.00 a gallon at the gas pump, we need legislation encouraging significant investment in development of alternative energy sources and increased conservation measures,” Boswell said.
And Nussle, a Republican from Manchester, issued a brief prepared statement and said he was “glad to hear the President outline some issues very important to all Iowans. I was particularly excited to hear about his plans to develop important renewable fuel resources.”