The Republican presidential candidate who’s made the most visits to Iowa in the past year says his opposition to ethanol subsidies in no way dooms his chances in the Iowa Caucuses. Rick Santorum voted against subsidies for the ethanol industry when he represented Pennsylvania as a member of the U.S. House and then the Senate. He recently called for a five-year phase-out of the subsidy.

“And in each of those years, half of that phase out would be used…to provide tax incentives to build infrastructure for ethanol distribution, for E85,” he says. Santorum says he’s learned a lot about the ethanol industry during his trips to Iowa. “When you travel around the country, ethanol has a pretty bad name in a lot of areas, that, you know, this is a big boondoggle. It doesn’t work. It consumes more energy than it produces,” Santorum says.

“And so I thought, ‘Well, you know, I’ve got to find out what the truth is,’ and so I’ve done that. And I’ve been very impressed that a lot of progress has been made in the efficiency of the production process.” Santorum’s top Iowa campaign advisor has worked as a communications director for one of the state’s largest ethanol producers, and Santorum himself has become a sort of defender of the industry.

“The numbers that are throw around by a lot of people around the country, including some potential candidates for president, are not current technologies,” Santorum says. “And the current technology is actually very efficient and so efficient that I believe they can be weaned off the subsidy.”

Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, a likely Republican presidential candidate, has said he’s not going to campaign in Iowa because he does not support subsidies for corn, soybeans and ethanol. Last month another Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty, the former Minnesota governor, called for phasing out ethanol subsidies.

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, another G.O.P. presidential candidate, said during a recent visit to Iowa that he supports subsidies for ethanol.