Iowa’s congressional delegation backs President Bush’s new call for a dramatic increase in ethanol production. During his State of the Union speech Tuesday night, Bush proposed a nearly seven-fold increase in U.S. production of "renewable fuels" by the year 2017. Senator Tom Harkin, a Democrat who is the chairman of the Senate Ag Committee, says he is "very supportive."
"In fact, I told (Bush) that personally after the speech," Harkin says. "Then I saw his budget director….and I said: ‘Now, are we going to have a budget that reflects that?’ That’s really the key. We can all say we want things, but he’s got to send us a budget down that reflects the need that we have to begin this process of building more ethanol plants, more cellulose plants, getting the research for better enzymes and giving incentives to farmers to plant cellulosic-type crops for cellulose conversion." Harkin says this has the potential to dramatically change Iowa agriculture.
"We’re still going to be very strong in corn in Iowa because we have the corn. We know how to grow it. Our climate’s perfect. Our soil’s perfect, so our ethanol’s going to be basically corn-based, but we will use corn stover, you know the stalks and the cobs and thinks like that for the cellulose," Harkin says. Senator Chuck Grassley, a Republican, calls it the "boldest move" Bush has ever made on ethanol and Grassley predicts congress will endorse it.
"There’s nothing controversial about ethanol," Grassley says. "There used to be, you know, from New York, California, from the big oil companies — but not anymore." Congressman Leonard Boswell, a Democrat from Des Moines, says he, too, applauds the president’s push for more ethanol and biodiesel production.
"The question is, well, are we serious about it?" Boswell says. "We can all reflect back when he had his energy conference at the White House some years ago there wasn’t anybody there from the alternatives, so I hope this is a step forward. I want that very badly to happen."
Congressman Bruce Braley, a Democrat from Waterloo, says he backs the president’s "new direction" in energy policy. "I was very excited about the president’s indication of his willingness to work on a bipartisan basis with congress on a plan for energy independence and that includes investments in clean, sustainable energy and biofuels," Braley says.
Congressman Tom Latham, a Republican from Alexander, sees no real obstacles in congress to the president’s proposal on renewable fuels. "Certainly, the president hit a home run as far as I’m concerned," Latham says. Congressman Dave Loebsack, a Democrat from Mount Vernon, says increasing production of renewable fuels will be a boost to the Iowa economy. "I think it’s great for job creation, for increasing our domestic security — not being so dependent on the Middle East, especially, for oil and for protecting our environment," Loebsack says. "I hope we can work together on these issues."
Congressman Steve King, a Republican from Kiron, released a written statement last night. "Renewable energy is important to our rural economies in Western Iowa," King said. "As the nation turns to America’s farmers to produce food, fiber and now fuel to help reduce our nation’s dependence on Middle Eastern oil, we must make sure we can produce the corn to keep up with demand. We also have to be mindful of what a high mandate could do to the livestock industry and feed prices."