Four presidential candidates turned out Monday for a bioeconomy conference at Iowa State University. John McCain, the lone Republican to appear at the event, repeated his stand against ethanol subsidies.
"Yes, I oppose subsidies. Not just ethanol subsidies — subsidies and not just in Iowa either. I opposed them in my own state of Arizona," McCain said. "I am proud of the conservative tradition that the government can sometimes best serve the interests of the American people by knowing when to stay out of their way." McCain argues the subsidies should be ended so more innovation can occur in the renewable fuels industry.
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said after Iraq, the nation’s energy independence is a top domestic and foreign policy priority. "I was recently in Fort Dodge as they were talking about the biofuels plants. I said, ‘Can you go in and pull into a gasoline station and fill up?’ The answer’s no," Biden said. "There are 140,000 gas stations in the United Stats of America and only 1,300 have even only a single pump that pumps E85 ethanol."
Democrat Dennis Kucinich warned that if the U.S. invades Iran, the price of a gallon of gasoline here will go up to $10 a gallon. Kucinich also warned farmers to take a second look at dedicating so much of the harvest to biofuels.
"If you create so much of an investment in biofuels and use so much corn for biofuels, you drive up the cost of corn and maybe you distort agricultural markets and unintentionally create a problem with food prices that have an effect on the poor," Kucinch said.
Democrat Chris Dodd expanded the discussion beyond biofuels to ag trade. "I’ve been a long advocate for lifting the embargo in Cuba," Dodd said. "I find it somewhat ironic that you can’t buy a cigar from Cuba, but you can do all the business you want with China."
Dodd said opening up trade with Cuba would be a tremendous boost for Iowa farmers. Another Democratic presidential candidate, John Edwards, was scheduled to speak at the forum, but was running late and cancelled at the last minute.