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Energy policy at center of Senate candidates' Farmfest debate

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The energy needs of Minnesota and the country were prominent when U.S. Senator Al Franken and four of his challengers took the stage at Farmfest Wednesday.

MinnPost reports Franken and the Republican-endorsed candidate, Mike McFadden, agreed on expanding a wind energy tax credit – and not much else.

McFadden emphasized the need for more pipelines to deliver oil and natural gas to Minnesota, at one point saying “We need to get pipelines built yesterday, and I’ll make sure that happens,” MinnPost reports.

Franken, meanwhile, spoke of the need for a diverse energy portfolio and said Minnesota should develop more renewable energy since the state does not produce its own oil or gas.

MPR News notes the three other candidates who took part in the forum were state Rep. Jim Abeler and Iraq War veteran David Carlson, both Republicans, and the Independence Party's Kevin Terrell. MPR says all of the challengers portrayed Franken as part of a dysfunctional federal government.

Farmfest is an annual agricultural convention. As the Star Tribune puts it, it has become a proving ground for political candidates trying to win over rural voters. The event is held near Redwood Falls, which McFadden initially called Redwood City in a tweet that was later modified.

Propane

One of the energy questions on the mind of rural Minnesotans is whether propane will be as scarce and expensive as it was last winter.

On that front there was some encouraging news when word spread at Farmfest that the Army Corps of Engineers approved a new storage facility in Benson that will hold 1 million gallons. But Sen. Amy Klobuchar tells Forum News Service that much propane is only one-third of the amount Minnesota recently lost when the owner of a major pipeline announced a change of plans.

The pipeline that formerly delivered Canadian propane to the Midwest will no longer carry propane and has been reversed to flow into Canada. The Des Moines Register says that line carried 38 percent of Minnesota's propane and 13 percent of Iowa's. The Iowa agriculture secretary warned rural residents to plan ahead for a possible propane crunch again this fall and winter.

The demand for propane surges in the autumn, when many farmers use it to power machinery to dry freshly harvested grain. Some also use propane to heat their homes and livestock barns.

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