On a Friday afternoon when travelers were planning their weekend getaways, U.S. Rep. Steve King also was on the road.
The congressman included Spencer in a series of stops around the region.
"I need to put my ear to the ground constantly to pick up the voice of the people," he said.
Lately he's been hearing a lot about gas prices. A gallon of ethanol-blended gasoline in the region falls about a dime short of $4.
"It used to be that you couldn't do a town hall meeting without the immigration subject coming up and dominating everything," King said. "Now, even though that is a very important issue and it's important to me, gas prices and diesel fuel prices and the cost of energy in its entirety dominates everything. And it should."
King said the nation has not successfully addressed the domestic energy supply concerns.
"The House has passed seven, eight or nine bills over the past two or three Congresses that would expand the supply," he said. "I have, of course, voted for every one of them and advocated for every one of them while I was there, but those bills went over to the Senate where they were filibustered in the Senate by a minority of environmentalists who don't want to see more energy into our marketplace."
King says those decisions are a factor in the record-high fuel prices. He did credit an executive order by the Bush Administration to open up the continental shelf for oil drilling. A moratorium on the drilling is set to expire on Sept. 30.
"That's going to be interesting, but after Sept. 30, if they don't bring legislation to block drilling in the outer continental shelf, that will open that up and it makes a big difference - and it will hit the markets immediately," King said. "Now, oil is down $10-$15 a barrel just because of that announcement by the president."
Western Iowa's congressman is concerned about interference from the environmental lobby - he calls it a "San Francisco philosophy" because he counts House Speaker Nancy Pelosi among those who are reluctant to resume drilling in the outer continental shelf.
"I believe oil is a limited resource but I don't think we understand how much of the resource we have," King said. "There is a lot more oil out there than the public knows and a lot more out there than many of the oil-exploration people know. As we develop technology, we're finding new, and more, reservoirs of oil - some of it far deeper, a lot of it offshore all around the world."
King said new drilling isn't the solution entirely.
"I think that when (longtime Texas oil executive) T. Boone Pickens comes on television and says, 'this is one problem we can't drill our way out of,' I'm not sure he's right on that," he said. "But, I understand his point. I will say: This is one problem that we can't get out of without drilling. And then we need to expand every other source of energy as well."
King also would like to see more nuclear-generated electricity to grow the size of the energy pie. Wind, solar, bio-diesel and a more efficient process for hydro-electricity also need to be considered, he said.
"I've given this speech for more than three years: Grow the size of the energy pie - the pie chart of all the different kinds of energy that we have, that we produce, and that we consume in this country," he said. "And one of the other pieces of that pie is energy conservation. If we put all of that together we can put more BTUs of energy on the market than we are consuming and when we do that, the price goes down."
King also thinks observers who suggest the Bush Administration is too close to the oil industry are off the mark.
"He knows more about ethanol than most people that I know - and I know a lot of smart ethanol people," King said of the president. "There are a couple of things I disagree with him on, but he's more committed to ethanol."