Netherlands King To Attend Ethanol Plant Opening In Iowa


On Wednesday, King Willem-Alexander visits Emmetsburg, Iowa, for the opening of a cellulosic ethanol plant. The Netherlands and Iowa have a lot in common — both are major agricultural centers.

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Careful listeners will know that Iowa is a popular destination for politicians who want to lead this country. It's also the unexpected first stop on a visit to the U.S. by the new king of the Netherlands, His Majesty Willem-Alexander. The king is attending the grand opening of a U.S.-Dutch-owned ethanol plant. Sarah Boden of Iowa Public Radio reports.

SARAH BODEN, BYLINE: In an interview last year, then Crown Prince Willem-Alexander said, if you are careful about choosing which ribbons to cut, these choices can have real substance. Well, today the king is cutting a ribbon at the grand opening of an ethanol plant in Emmetsburg, Iowa. POET-DSM claims its new facility is the world's largest, commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant. Cellulosic ethanol uses the fibers or inedible parts of a plant to make fuel. Bieneke Haitjema teaches Dutch language and culture at Indiana University. She says a visit focusing on renewable fuels is a logical choice for His Majesty.

BIENEKE HAITJEMA: The environment there is under relatively more pressure than elsewhere in Europe, and it has taken radical measurements, probably more so than most other EU member states.

BODEN: In the Netherlands, like Iowa, is a major agricultural center. Dan Thornton specializes in Dutch culture and literature at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He says Willem-Alexander is a laid-back monarch who's not terribly interested in protocol.

DAN THORNTON: To tour a facility in Iowa is I don't think that far out of the ordinary. It may seem more mundane and less glamorous, but I think that that fits perfectly in the approach that he's indicated that he will take.

BODEN: In addition to agriculture, the Netherlands and Iowa have a shared history. In the 1800s, thousands of Dutch settled in Iowa. Bieneke Haitjema says they came here because the landscape reminded them of home.

HAITJEMA: The Netherlands literally means low land and is indeed flat. It has a lot of farmland.

BODEN: More than 150 years since the Dutch first came here Iowa's fertile farmland still draws visitors from the Netherlands, sometimes even kings. For NPR News, I'm Sarah Boden in Des Moines, Iowa.

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