Thursday, November 20, 2008

Harkin: Detroit turnaround should be fueled by Iowa

U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin today said a possible federal rescue plan for Detroit automakers could include provisions that advance Iowa-produced energy.

In a conference call with the Daily Times Herald and other media this morning Harkin said he’s talked with key players in the process about hiking the blend in ethanol from “E10” to E15 or E20. What’s more, the Iowa Democrat is pushing for requirements on flexible-fuel vehicles that run on traditional petroleum as well as biodiesel, ethanol and other sources.

“That would be a step in the right direction,” Harkin said.

With Illinoisan Barack Obama two months away from taking the oath of office as president, Iowa’s renewable fuels industry is in a prime position, Harkin said.

Obama made renewable energy an important component of his campaign in Iowa during the caucuses. Now, the Hawkeye State is poised to benefit quickly as the next president shepherds in what is expected to be something of a green revolution, Harkin said.

“It’s a whole new industry for the state of Iowa,” Harkin said.

He said a federal economic stimulus package Obama has pledged to enact if the current Congress doesn’t move first would surely include a major push for renewable energy because of the job-creating potential.

Iowa could quadruple its wind energy production over the next decade as state and federal efforts ramp up with an Obama administration, Iowa Utilities Board Chairman John Norris told The Storm Lake Times in a recent interview.

Harkin sees the wind energy development occurring in concert with progress on electric cars.

“That way you can run your car on wind energy,” Harkin said.

Norris also expects that the biofuels industry will get a significant boost over the first term of the next Congress as Barack Obama takes the presidency.

Norris told The Storm Lake Times that much of the wind energy expansion will occur in Northwest and North Central Iowa, where wind resources are the greatest.

According to The Storm Lake Times, the two biggest obstacles to expanded wind production are the lack of a carbon cost system and a federal requirement that utility companies must generate a percentage of their power from renewable resources — called a renewable portfolio standard (RPS), Norris said. Obama includes both in his green energy plan — devoting $10 billion per year to renewable energy in hopes of creating 5 million jobs.

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