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Urbanites, agriculture see common ground in biofuels and energy conservation

Iowa leaders were in strong agreement that the state and the U.S. must use energy more efficiently in order to remain competitive in the global economy, a panel of leaders said in Des Moines, Iowa, Friday.

Speaking at a meeting on the future of Iowa's energy industry, Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey said it would be a mistake to abandon federal and state programs that are encouraging development of biofuels due to increasing demands for both energy and fuel.

"Certainly there are folks who are using this to make old arguments," Northey said. Ethanol isn't the complete answer to the nation's need to become more energy independent, he said. But it's also a small factor in rising food prices. Food inflation this year is five percent, an 18-year high, he said.

"An awful lot of that five percent is due to the fact that we've got a 100% increase in energy in the past year," Northey said.

If the federal government abandons its support for ethanol, it will send a signal to other alternative energy industries that with "one flip of the political switch you may be out of business," Northey said.

Northey spoke at an Iowa Conversations forum at Drake University that was sponsored by Mediacom and IowaPolitics.com.

John Norris, director of the Iowa Utilities Board, said that in the short run, the development of the biofuels industry in Iowa has increased demand for both natural gas and electricity needed to produce ethanol. He said Iowa said that industrial use of energy in Iowa needs to become more efficient, as in Japan, where energy use has grown very slowly for decades.

Des Moines Mayor, Frank Cownie, said that in urban areas, energy savings of about 50% can be achieved by more efficient standards for commercial and residential buildings.

Iowa leaders were in strong agreement that the state and the U.S. must use energy more efficiently in order to remain competitive in the global economy, a panel of leaders said in Des Moines, Iowa, Friday.

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