Harkin doubts about Boswell/Vilsack primary

Senator Tom Harkin said this weekend he doubts former Iowa First Lady Christie Vilsack will challenge Congressman Leonard Boswell in a primary next year.  Harkin was the guest on this weekend’s Iowa Press on IPTV (watch the episode here) and — brace yourself — Harkin and former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich agree on ethanol policy.  Subsidies can be phased out/end under certain conditions.  Gingrich said in January that carmakers should be required to make every vehicle that rolls off the line a flexible fuel vehicle.  Harkin adds another caveat: subisides can end when all vehicles are flex-fuel and there’s a pipeline, plus pumps to dispense the stuff. Here’s the transcript:

Hsrkin: Well, I think we have reached the point now in ethanol as a liquid fuel where I don’t know that we need the price support so much anymore but what we need is market access, market access.  I have been trying for some time, again, with Senator Lugar, so we have had a bipartisan approach on this, to expand the market for ethanol.  That means we need more blender pumps, we need more flexible fuel cars and we need dedicated pipelines to carry the ethanol from the Midwest to the east.  Let me expand on that just a second.  We called in some of the auto companies just a few years ago and met with them to ask them why they weren’t building more flexible fuel vehicles because they build them in Brazil, Ford every car they build in Brazil is flexible fuel or GM or Honda or Toyota.  So, we called them and we said, why aren’t you building more flex fuel cars here?  Well, their answer was because there’s no blender pumps.  There’s no pumps out there.  So, we called in the oil companies and we asked them, why aren’t you putting in more blender pumps?  Do you know what their answer was?  Because there aren’t any flexible fuel cars out there.

Henderson: So you would support requiring the auto makers to make flexible fuel vehicles?

Harkin: Absolutely, I have a bill in to do that.

Henderson: And get rid of ethanol subsidies?

Harkin: Well, a gradual reduction in the ethanol subsidies but to get the — and we’re going to have to confront that this year, by the way.  But we have to mandate flexible fuel vehicles and we have to mandate, I believe, blender pumps and I worked a couple of years ago to get some changes in the tax law to make it easier to build a pipeline and I believe that is going to happen in the next few years, a pipeline that will go from Iowa to New York City and so we’re going to be able to deliver ethanol to mass markets. That is what ethanol needs, market access.

Back to Gingrich, The Wall Street Journal wrote an opinion piece responding to the statements Gingrich made in Des Moines about ethanol.

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.