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Iowa’s U.S. senators agree with Pawlenty on phasing out energy subsidies, oil and ethanol alike

Presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty may find like-minded support from Iowa’s federal senators, who have co-sponsored legislation that would initially extend ethanol subsidies tax credits, but would gradually phase the subsides out.

In his first official 2012 campaign stop in Iowa Monday, Pawlenty called for a fiscal plan that would “phase out subsidies across all sources of energy and all industries, including ethanol.”

Legislation that would phase out such subsidies over a five-year span, then putting superfluous subsidies into tax credits for flex fuel vehicle blender pumps was introduced earlier this month in D.C., co-sponsored by U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA). Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) is also one of the original co-sponsors of the bill.

“(Pawlenty) called me on Sunday, so I had an opportunity to listen to what he said about ethanol,” Grassley said during a Tuesday media conference call. “He doesn’t have to be as specific as a piece of legislation, but I think he’s advocating what I would advocate.”

However, the two-term governor’s remark drew criticism from state Democrats, who claimed Pawlenty was backpedaling.

“Pawlenty’s record on ethanol subsidies follows a pattern – he supported them as governor, and now he’s against them,” Michael Kiernan, vice-chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party, said Monday. “As the Governor of Minnesota, he backed ethanol subsidies, (and) today he wants to cut them.”

Pawlenty, who added he is “not some out-of-touch politician,” said ethanol subsidies in Minnesota were reduced due to “fiscal challenges.”

“I served two terms as Governor of an (agriculture) state,” he said Monday. “I fully understand and respect the critical role farming plays in our economy and our society.”

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