By Mike Glover

The Associated Press.

NEVADA, IA (AP)--President Bush called for "a diversified energy base" that includes a strong commitment to alternative fuels such as ethanol-blended gasoline.

"I would much rather replace oil from Iraq with farm products from Iowa,' the president said in his visit to the state MAY 17.

Gov. Tom Vilsack, D-IA, meanwhile, met with Bush and Environmental Protection Agency administrator Christi Todd Whitman and said he got clear signals that the administration is going to move to open the giant California market to ethanol.

Vilsack and other Midwestern governors are pushing the Administration to reject a clean air waiver California is seeking. Rejection of the waiver would open that market for formulated fuels such as ethanol.

"They indicated that we just need to be patient," said Vilsack. "She said that I, personally, wouldn't be disappointed. She said we governors have to stick together.

"The president came through and he basically just looked at me and said 'patience,"' the governor said.

Bush toured a research site seeking development of energy from biomass such as woodchips, switchgrass, corn and other biological products. Critics argue that Bush's energy policy is too heavily weighted toward drilling and traditional energy sources, but he rejected that argument.

Bush pointed to his pledges of support for ethanol when he campaigned for Iowa's leadoff precinct caucuses and said nothing has changed.

"I support it not only as a candidate, but I support it as the president," Bush said.

"I can't think of anything better for national security than replacing barrels of oil with products grown right here in America," Bush said. He said technology is advancing to where once-exotic fuels are now commonplace, and even bigger breakthroughs are looming.

"We're pretty close and we're more than close on ethanol--that's real," Bush said.

Bush came to Nevada wrapping up a tour to outline his overall energy policy,a proposal supporters said marked the first comprehensive energy policy in decades.

Critics said Bush's policy was developed in secret and ignores issues such as ethanol which are crucial to the Midwest.

As Bush headed to the Midwest to tout his energy proposal, the debate was beginning to rage.

"President Bush's plan provides an opportunity to enact the first real energy policy this nation has had since the 1930s," said David L. Sokol, chairman and CEO of MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company.

"I am disappointed that the president's first serious effort on energy policy was written in secrecy," said Rep. Leonard Boswell, D-IA. "We need to work in a bipartisan manner and not behind closed doors."

While Bush's energy plan focused heavily on expanding production of traditional energy sources, he sought to focus on alternative energy, unveiling the plan at research sites focusing on biomass and other energy sources.

"Renewable power plays a very important role in the plan, which is especially important to MidAmerican as a major provider of renewable energy," Sokol said.

Sokol and other energy executives were briefed on details of Bush's proposal, and were invited to attend his event at the biomass research facility in Nevada.

U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-IA, wasn't on hand but headed to a Washington news conference where he argued Bush's commitment to renewable energy was symbolic only.

"This Administration has been quick to disparage renewable energy and energy conservation," said Harkin. "Their budget slashes renewable energy research and development by more than a third."

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