Tuesday, November 06, 2007

ISEA, Iowa Farm Bureau and ISU Co-Sponsor Biofuels Forum With Presidential Candidates

Register Staff Writer

Ames, Ia. - Presidential candidate John McCain told biofuel proponents here Monday night that he opposes government subsidies on ethanol the same way he opposes subsidies on other products, including oil.

The Arizona senator was the only Republican among four candidates who spoke to a few hundred participants at a renewable-energy conference at Iowa State University's Hilton Coliseum. He said he knows his position on ethanol might not be popular in Iowa, adding that it's what he believes.

McCain said that he believes American farmers can compete with anyone in the world and that they do not need the subsidies and regulations that come with big federal programs. "I trust Americans. I trust the markets. And I oppose subsidies," McCain said.He said America needs to cut its dependence on foreign oil and its contributions to global warming. He favors a plan in which power plants could get credits for reducing pollution. They could sell those credits to others. That system would provide big incentives for use of alternative energies, including ethanol and nuclear power, he said.

Sen. Chris Dodd said the fight against global warming should provide opportunities for Iowa. He favors a corporate carbon tax, which, he said, would make it more costly to burn fossil fuels and encourage sales of biofuels. "We tax cigarettes, why not tax carbon?" Dodd said. The $50 billion the tax would raise could be invested in alternative energy resources, he added.

Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat, said he is open to discussing the possible increased role of nuclear power. He added that he understands the safety concerns, but that he hopes they could be lessened with improved technology.

Delaware Sen. Joe Biden said America has only 2 percent of the world's oil reserves, which is why it imports more than half the oil it uses. Even if drilling was allowed everywhere in the United States, the Democrat said, the country could not increase output enough to make a dent in the high prices.

America's dependence on foreign oil winds up supporting tyrants in oil-rich nations, Biden said. "It ties our foreign policy in knots," he said.

Biden said he would require carmakers produce many more vehicles that use biodiesel or 85 percent ethanol. Doing so would cost only $100 per vehicle, he said. Biden said he also would require gas stations to carry 85 percent ethanol, which few now do.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich, an Ohio Democrat, said biofuels research is exciting but it has to be balanced against other needs. "It's not always easy to do that," he said. For instance, he said, using too much corn to make ethanol can drive up the cost of food.

A fifth candidate, Democrat John Edwards, a former senator from North Carolina, canceled his appearance, saying he had fallen behind on his schedule while campaigning elsewhere in Iowa.

Reporter Tony Leys can be reached at (515) 284-8449 or tleys@dmreg.com

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