DES MOINES — Gov. Terry Branstad expressed concern Monday that uninformed or misinformed decisions could be made at the federal level that will negatively affect renewable fuels at a time when America is making gains in reducing its dependency on foreign oil.
“I just think we need to do a better job of informing and educating people so they don’t panic over something like this drought situation and do something stupid like reducing our production of alternative fuels that have made a difference in reducing our dependency on foreign oil,” Branstad told his weekly news conference. “We are moving in the right direction finally, but we have a long ways to go to really become energy self-sufficient in this country and we can if we don’t forget what got us where we are.”
The governor was responding to recent calls to suspend federal renewable energy standards as drought conditions drive corn prices to record levels with negative effects on the livestock industry and other economic sectors.
Branstad said that only about 16 percent of Iowa’s 88.2 million net corn acres are used to produce ethanol but there are a lot of uninformed people, especially on the U.S. coasts, who think the corn being grown in Iowa is sweet corn for human consumption and that ethanol is impacting food production. He said this summer’s drought conditions have created some short-term problems, but he worried they could precipitate policy decisions that would hurt renewable fuels.
On a separate renewable energy issue, Branstad said he and other Iowa Republicans hoped to convince presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney to support at least a temporary extension of federal wind energy tax credits. Officials have said nearly 7,000 Iowa jobs are tied to the wind industry that relies on the tax credits to remain profitable. The topic is likely to come up at a private fundraiser for Romney in West Des Moines today, although Branstad said he would not be able to attend because of a scheduling conflict.
Branstad said the federal tax credit has been helpful to Iowa’s wind energy, “and when it’s expired in the past, we’ve seen the growth of this industry dramatically reduced, so we think it needs to be extended again, and we’re hopeful that indeed the Congress will and future President Romney will sign it.”
Branstad ducked questions Monday about who he thought might be on Romney’s short list of potential running mates, telling reporters, “It’s very difficult to speculate on a situation like that.” But he added, “I’ve always been partial to governors” because of the executive experience they bring a political ticket.
Branstad said there are several governors and other Republicans who would be good vice presidential candidates, adding, “I’m confident that he’ll choose somebody that he feels is ready to be president and somebody that has the kind of executive experience that we need.”
On another topic Monday, Branstad said Iowa GOP Chairman A.J. Spiker had a right to express his opinion last week when he urged Iowans to reject the retention of Iowa Supreme Court Justice David Wiggins in November, but he will leave that decision up to the voters and not try to influence the outcome of this fall’s retention election.
Wiggins was one of seven justices who joined in a unanimous 2009 ruling that paved the way for gay marriage in Iowa. Three of the justices who were up for retention in 2010 were voted off the court, and Spiker is urging a similar outcome this November.