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Lawmakers Ethanol Market Big
Bush Plans to Spend Extra $59 Millionon Non-Corn Research

E. Michael Myers

The Gazette

February 2, 2006

[Note: This material is copyright by The Gazette, and is reproduced here as a matter of "fair use" for non-commercial, educational purposes only. Any other use may require the prior approval of The Gazette.]

   WASHINGTON — President Bush wants to spend an additional $59 million next year for research into using wood chips and other forms of cellulose to produce ethanol, an idea that does not threaten corn-based production, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said Wednesday.

   The energy bill the president signed into law last summer mandates the use of 7.5 billion gallons of ethanol each year by 2012, with corn as the dominant production crop.

   Grassley said there is plenty of room for the market to grow and that other forms of biomass are necessary for production.

   ‘‘We can be up to 12, 14 billion gallons in a few years and that is half of our corn crop,’’ Grassley said. ‘‘You have got to save some corn for other things, particularly animal agriculture, so you look elsewhere for sources of ethanol.

   ‘‘This would benefit timber, sugar beets, rice, straw. Farmers will benefit from that. We have such potential for the use of ethanol, it is perfectly legitimate to look elsewhere (for production sources) for it.’’

   Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, former chairman of the Agriculture Committee, agreed the ethanol market is big enough that sources other than corn could be used.

   ‘‘With advances in technology, we will be able to use a wide variety of sources — corn, corn stalks, soybeans, grasses and other biomass to increase our production of ethanol and biodiesel,’’ Harkin said.

   In his State of the Union address Tuesday, Bush said he would ask for $150 million in his budget to promote development of ethanol from cellulose, such as wood chips, grasses, and other natural sources. This would be an increase of $59 million.

   Rep. Jim Leach, R-Iowa, welcomed the idea, but said it does not go far enough.

   ‘‘There was no emphasis on conservation,’’ Leach said in an interview. ‘‘I think the greatest no-brainer issue for the U.S. Congress on energy is to increase miles-per-gallon standards. Not to do that is putting one’s head in the sand.’’

   Leach said Iowa corn farmers should not worry about any competition from other sources.

   ‘‘The theory of ethanol is now proven,’’ he said. ‘‘A decade and a half ago it was wildly controversial. There is more to agricultural America than just corn. People are looking to the possibility of new things that are grown that will be good for ethanol, too.’’