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Klobuchar discusses Iraq, energy, local issues

by Steve Schulz,


Sen. Amy Klobuchar visited Boondocks Cafe in Wadena Friday, listening to local concerns and sharing a few of her own.

Klobuchar, D--Minnesota, making her first official visit to Wadena since being elected last fall, talked about everything from the Iraq war and renewable energy to pool safety and railroad whistles.

A group of local community leaders quizzed Klobuchar on local issues.

Toby Pierce, a local businessman and city council member, asked Klobuchar about whether it's necessary for every train that runs through town to blare its horn.

Pierce lives a half-block from the tracks, and asked Klobuchar to try to find money to improve track crossing safety so the horn could be silenced.

"Even if you can't do that, I can't believe they have to lay on that horn well after the last intersection," he said. "I don't know how many decibels that is -- does it have to be that loud?"

Klobuchar, who sits on the Commerce committee which oversees railroad regulation, said she'd look into the issue.

Klobuchar is also working on renewable fuels through her assignments on the Agriculture Committee and Environment and Public Works Committee. She said she believes the Senate will eventually vote to take away billions of dollars in subsidies to oil companies and use them to develop renewable fuels like cellulostic ethanol. She said the Senate fell only two votes short of cutting off debate and passing the measure, and two Democratic senators, such as South Dakota's Tim Johnson who has been hospitalized for months, were absent but could be back on the floor soon.

State Sen. Dan Skogen, DFL--Hewitt, said using crops for fuel and farmland for wind turbines are good ideas, but must be made to be profitable for the small farmer. For instance, he said, growing crops like hazel brush to be used for ethanol must be a good business move for producers.

"Farmers understand a good value," Skogen said. "We need to show them the value of planting something other than corn and soybeans."

To keep pollution from energy use in check, Klobuchar said a so-called cap-and-trade system is gaining steam.

Klobuchar recently returned from a trip to Iraq, where she visited in March.

"I believe we need to change course," Klobuchar said. "We've spent over $300 billion."

She said support for the war is slipping. But she said some issues everyone can get behind.

"No matter where people were on the war, they know we need to take care of our veterans," Klobuchar said.

She said new outpatient facilities like the one that recently opened in Bemidji are a good example of the type of support America should give its veterans when they return home.

"When they signed up, there was no waiting line," Klobuchar said. "There shouldn't be a waiting line when they get back."