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Politics fuel future of ethanol alternative

David Espo Associated Press

WASHINGTON – The first caucuses of the 2008 presidential campaign are more than two years in the distance, but Iowa’s interest in ethanol knows no season.

That may help explain why Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., nearly alone among senators from the Northeast, voted recently to fend off an attack on government support for the corn-based fuel alternative.

And why Sen. George Allen cast a similar vote, marking a turnabout in his position. It left him on the opposite side from Virginia’s other Republican senator, John Warner.

“It doesn’t require presidential ambitions for United States senators to want an energy policy that benefits consumers and relies on American farmers, not the Saudi royal family,” said David Wade, a spokesman for Kerry, the Democratic presidential candidate last year and a potential contender in 2008.

A spokesman for Allen, a possible White House challenger in 2008, said, “Virginia is looking for ways to transition from traditional crops.”

David Snepp also noted that the same provision in the bill expands federal support for fuel derived from crops other than corn. Allen and President Bush toured a West Point, Va., facility on May 16 that produces biodiesel from soybeans.

Turning the Senate into a springboard to the White House is a recurring ambition, last fulfilled by John F. Kennedy in 1960.

Still, hope is as eternal as Iowa farmland.

Energy legislation customarily underscores regional rather than party differences in the Senate. But presidential ambition also poked through during last week’s debate.

Corn is abundant in Iowa, where it is processed into a fuel additive in increasingly large amounts.

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