In Iowa, Romney backs ethanol subsidies

Likely GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Friday voiced his support for ethanol subsidies during his first visit of the year to Iowa.

Asked about his position on federal ethanol subsidies following a talk at the Greater Des Moines Partnership's Presidential Forum Speaker Series, Romney said that ethanol is an important part of the nation's energy supply.

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“I support the subsidy of ethanol,” said Romney, according to ABC News. “I believe it’s an important part of our energy solution in this country.”

Ethanol subsidies are popular in Iowa, which has a large agricultural industry that produces the corn-based fuel. The issue typically looms large over the state's first-in-the-nation caucuses, and successful presidential candidates have typically supported subsidies. 

During his 2008 campaign, in which he mounted an aggressive push to win the Iowa caucuses, Romney also supported subsidies. But Romney still fell short to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

The ex-Massachusetts governor has largely centered his 2012 campaign strategy around winning New Hampshire, the first primary state, but indicated that he still wants to play in Iowa.

"Iowa’s first in the nation. Iowa carries out a caucus process in which you get to know the various candidates, their capabilities and their visions. That is a service Iowa provides not just to the people here but to the nation,” Romney said, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Romney's stance puts him at odds with former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R), who is looking to cast himself as a Romney alternative.

During an appearance in Des Moines on Monday, when he officially announced his candidacy, Pawlenty made the politically risky move of opposing ethanol subsidies.

“The truth about federal energy subsidies, including federal subsidies for ethanol, is that they have to be phased out,” he said. “We need to do it gradually. We need to do it fairly. But we need to do it.”

But Pawlenty has been framing his campaign around his willingness to go against the status quo. 

“Conventional wisdom says you can’t talk about ethanol in Iowa or Social Security in Florida or financial reform on Wall Street,” Pawlenty said. “But someone has to say it. Someone has to finally stand up and level with the American people. Someone has to lead.”