Gutknecht visits city, discusses 10 by 10 Act
WORTHINGTON -- Hailing renewable energy "as a great story for southern Minnesota," Rep. Gil Gutknecht visited Worthington Tuesday to pitch his proposed 10 by 10 Act and provide updates on other issues being discussed in Washington.
Gutknecht's legislation would require a 10 percent blend of renewable fuel in all gasoline sold in the United States by 2010. The bill, if passed, would follow Minnesota's lead in setting a blend requirement for renewable fuel.
"The bad news is there are experts saying that we're importing $700 million worth of oil a day," Gutknecht said. "By next summer ... that could be $1 billion a day. What if half that money was cycling through our economy? That's a huge impact."
Gutknecht, a U.S. representative since 1994 who is seeking re-election in November, explained that growing crops and producing ethanol would create jobs, boost local economies and boost tax bases. He said renewable fuel entrepreneurs can produce ethanol at a per-gallon cost less than that of gasoline, a fact he believes would make such alternatives marketable -- in addition to its manufacture on non-foreign soil and environmental benefits.
"People are sick and tired of being under the thumb of OPEC," Gutknecht said. "There are powerful investors who are already getting this message. A small businessman you may have heard of, Bill Gates, is spending $81 million to build an ethanol plant."
Gutknecht indicated that the nation of Brazil already has "an incredibly efficient alcohol system" that has made it "essentially independent of OPEC." Seventy-three percent of new cars sold in Brazil are flex-fuel, he said, with General Motors the top seller. Brazil is producing ethanol at about 70 cents a gallon -- less than the $1 to $1.20 it costs here, Gutknecht stated.
"We're working on technology right here in Minnesota. ... They believe they can drop the price to 70 cents a gallon with corn," Gutknecht said. "The main point with 10 by 10 is, a goal is a dream with a deadline. It will never happen if you don't set specific goals."
In addition to a visit to the Daily Globe Tuesday, Gutknecht also met with about 25 community leaders for a soup and sandwich lunch at Coffee Nook. Among the topics broached by the congressman were the economy, Iraq, the bird flu scare and illegal immigration.
"You here in Worthington are really at ground zero," Gutknecht said of the ongoing debate on illegal immigration. "The real issue in Washington is border security. "The bottom line is there is a growing number of Americans who believe President Bush cannot control the budget and can't control the borders.
"You have to apply the law universally to everybody," Gutknecht added later, citing an example of two types of dairy farms -- a small family with a hired man and a large-scale farm employing cheaper labor. "There ... one side is getting subsidized illegal labor. If you have a business plan that's predicated on breaking the law, you're heading for a problem sooner or later."
With regard to a possible bird flu threat, Gutknecht said $5 billion is already being spent to combat "a very dangerous thing." He spoke of a visit to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, where he was shown a three-dimensional representation of the bird flu virus and told that 10 likely vaccines were being tested.
"We know a lot about it (bird flu), but we won't know what vaccine to produce until we know if it can be transmitted human-to-human," he said. "If it does happen, we'll be in a race to isolate the vaccine and produce the vaccine."
Additional research is ongoing worldwide to potentially eradicate viruses such as bird flu, Gutknecht added.
Two days after the three-year anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Gutknecht admitted that it's fair to go back and admit mistakes were made.
"We were told once Saddam was toppled, this would not be a very expensive process for the United States of America," he said. "I think the White House also oversold the whole weapons of mass destruction thing, but I think people are rewriting history a bit ... We all were given the same information."
There are many positive developments that aren't being reported, Gutknecht continued. Nevertheless, he thinks a reduced military presence there is in the not-so-distant future.
"I believe by the end of the year you'll see major troop withdrawals," he predicted. "We can still be helpful to Iraqis and Afghanis with the air superiority we have, but we can't know what's going on in their houses.
"In the end, the future of Iraq belongs to the people of Iraq. We have given them a chance. Now they must step up and take responsibility."