STAFF: The following is an unrehearsed interview with Iowa
Senator Chuck Grassley, speaking to you live from Washington.
Participating in today's public affairs program is Chris Johnson with
KGRN Radio in Grinnell.
Chris, go ahead with your first question.
JOHNSON: Hello Senator, and thank you for this opportunity.
The big news, I guess, was the president's visit to Iowa
yesterday, Newton, just down the road from Grinnell, so it's kind of
big for us here in east-central Iowa.
During his talk, President Obama discussed new Department of
Interior rules allowing off-shore wind energy production. How do you
view this? And how do you see Iowa benefiting?
GRASSLEY: Well, it'll take one step before that, if it's going
to be a national policy. And I think the president very much has this
in mind. But in order to even make the Midwestern wind power really
100 percent efficient, we have to have a national grid.
So if we're generating more off-shore -- and we're hardly
generating any now -- it's -- it's going to have to be hooked to a
national grid, if it's going to get the most efficient use of it.
GRASSLEY: So I believe that, through the stimulus bill, as well
as through some other initiatives the president has in mind, that
there is efforts to get a better grid system, maybe not in the first
step -- what you might call, quote/unquote, "a national system" -- but
at least to make it more regionally efficient.
And then, you know, that's with government help. Even before the
stimulus bill was passed, I saw maps in newspapers that suggested that
there was even private-sector people planning to have a better grid
system to make more efficient use of the wind power potential of the
JOHNSON: The president is also pushing for energy legislation
requiring lower pollution standards. How doable is this? And is this
fair to the United States to do this unilaterally?
GRASSLEY: That's more of an environmental issue than it is an
energy issue, but it would -- it would incentivize people to go to --
from coal to more energy-efficient stuff, like wind and biofuels, et
I think that -- that, since pollution doesn't respect any
political boundaries and since China is the biggest emitter of CO-2,
if we're going to have a level playing field economically for the
United States, in particular for manufacturing, we need to do it
through an international agreement.
And such negotiations are going on now. If the United States
passes a bill by itself and people seem to think that -- that that's
not going to clean up the worldwide global warming problem, but is
done for the sole purpose of the United States showing leadership,
then we're going to find ourselves on a very un-level playing field
China's the number-one emitter of CO-2 and global warming. And
so we need to make sure that they're on the same level playing field
It's kind of ironic that some of the same people in Washington
that have been complaining for years about the outsourcing of
manufacturing jobs to China are the very same ones that want to
promote the United States go it alone on global warming. And -- and
from that standpoint, there'd be more export manufacturing jobs.
So that's why I very much support it being done by international
negotiations and resultant treaty.
JOHNSON: Speaking of biofuels, during his speech in Newton,
President Obama made no reference to ethanol, which might seem odd for
a talk in Iowa focusing on energy independence. Do you have any
comments or concerns about that?
GRASSLEY: No. He can't mention everything. I would have --
suppose I would have been happier if he had mentioned it.
But I do know this, that -- that we have a situation where --
where it's -- it's a fact of life. It's a 30-year-old industry.
We're getting ready to go to the second generation of what we call
When he was a senator, he was very supportive of ethanol. He
seemed to be more supportive of ethanol during the campaign than even
John McCain was. And I believe he's still supportive of it.
So it doesn't make -- leave me concerned. It would have made me
happier if he had talked about ethanol as much as he talked about wind
JOHNSON: Has there been any headway made that you know of, in
terms of loosening the standards on the ethanol blend, E12, -13 or
GRASSLEY: Well, that's up to the EPA. And, of course, I'm
hoping they will do it. And I'm talking to them about doing it and
have written letters accordingly.
They're in a hearing process right now. I think we have big oil
fighting it. To some extent, you have even some agriculture groups,
livestock groups fighting it.
This is the first chink in the armor of ethanol that I have seen
in 30 years, and it's kind of distressing from my point of view,
because ethanol has always been considered by all of agriculture as
entirely good, nothing negative about it. And now, from some people
in agriculture, we're hearing things negative about it.
But I think it's a maturing industry and will stay with us. And
I think you're finding other countries moving in the same direction.
JOHNSON: You mentioned the president's stimulus package earlier.
And it may be too early to say, but do you have any thoughts on the
efficacy so far of the president's stimulus package funding?
GRASSLEY: Well, you know, I voted against it, not because of the
stimulus part of it -- of course, everybody thinks the whole thing is
stimulus -- but stimulus means to fill a vacuum, that individuals
aren't spending now and the government can spend and fill that vacuum,
and maybe turn the economy around.
From -- from that standpoint, you know, then that part of the
bill is good. About half the bill, though, is spending, money that's
going to be spent in the out-years of 2011 through 2016. That's
avoiding the appropriation process, because maybe that stuff couldn't
have gotten through in the thoughtful process of four or five months
of negotiation on the Appropriations Committee.
And it was subterfuge to get around the Appropriations
Committee. And, hence, I voted against the entire stimulus bill, not
because of the stimulating part, but because of the spending part.
And I -- and I am aware of the fact that stimulus or spending --
it's still spending, but stimulus was meant to be done in -- in a year
and to do something to turn the economy around. But money spent in
2011 and 2016 spread out over that many years is just going to be
spending, because the economy will be turned around by then and on --
I hope, running on all engines.
JOHNSON: Speaking of spending, your office -- you came out with
a press release yesterday about more than $2.3 million in funding to
improve safety on Iowa's highways. I wonder if you could elaborate a
little bit on more specifically how that money would be spent to do
GRASSLEY: Well, most of it refers to signing, and warning
signals, and -- and things that make -- how would you say it -- make
driving safely, because it's informative to the driver.
JOHNSON: OK. I just see that there's $1.9 million to help
support safety programs, and it kind of struck me as a bureaucratic
thing. And I just was wondering what the tangibles were on that. So
signing and stuff like that, then?
STAFF: Thank you Chris for participating in today's Capitol Hill Report. This has been Senator Chuck Grassley reporting to the people of Iowa.