Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley joined about fifteen other lawmakers from both parties in a meeting with President Bush at the White House this morning. "It was all about renewable fuels," Grassley says. Iowa’s Republican U.S. Senator says the president’s on his way to Brazil for foreign policy and energy talks with the world’s other major maker of ethanol.
Grassley says the president’s interested in ethanol production for political and economic reasons. He says it could counteract the influence of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and that country’s oil production on the price of petroleum in this hemisphere, and also help the U.S. be less dependent on "the volatile Mideast and oil generally for energy."
Grassley says the bipartisan discussion included possible tax incentives, legislation that might be proposed by the US Department of Energy, and energy measures that could be in the new federal Farm Bill. Grassley says he told the president he hopes we don’t arrange ethanol imports from South America before employing the so-called Caribbean Basin Initiative that’s already been established.
"An amount of ethanol up to 7-percent of U.S. domestic production can come into the United States duty-free," Grassley says. He says there’s a 54-cent duty to be paid on all other ethanol imported from the rest of the world. "Well, the seven percent’s not being used," Grassley says. The initiative, an agreement with nearly two-dozen Central American and island nations, was created in 2000 to cut illegal immigration and the drug trade by offering a legal market for ethanol made in those countries. The president is scheduled to visit Brazil, Mexico and other Latin American nations on a mission that begins next Thursday.
Grassley also said in a Friday-morning teleconference with reporters that he faxed as well as hand-delivered a request to the White House asking for a federal disaster designation for Iowa in the wake of severe winter storms this week.