Republican presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani argued he can lead the country away from reliance on foreign oil with increases in ethanol production and nuclear power.

On a visit to Iowa, the leading ethanol-producing state, Giuliani called for more ethanol plants and new nuclear reactors, oil refineries and transmission lines.

Presidents going back to Richard Nixon have promised energy independence, "and we haven't made much of a real dent in getting there," Giuliani told a gathering Wednesday at restaurant in Le Mars.

"But we've got Brazil way ahead of us on ethanol," the former New York mayor said. "It doesn't make sense that Brazil, per capita, would be ahead of us on ethanol. We have a country like France that's 85 percent nuclear power. We haven't built a new nuclear plant in 30 years."

The United States produces and uses more gallons of ethanol fuel than Brazil — a relatively recent development — although Brazil remains the world's largest exporter. Ethanol is made from sugar in Brazil and from corn in the U.S., where government farm policy keeps sugar prices higher and limits supply.

The ethanol industry is expanding rapidly in the United States. More than a quarter of the corn crop will go into ethanol this year in the United States, according to Agriculture Department estimates, up from 20 percent last year and 14 percent in 2005.

In Iowa, there are 28 ethanol refineries operating and 19 under construction or expanding, and there are 12 refineries for soybean-based biodiesel operating and three under construction, according to the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association.

Giuliani planned to visit one of those ethanol plants, Hawkeye Renewables, Thursday in Fairbank.

Giuliani said he supports the 51-cent-a-gallon tax credit created by Congress to encourage growth of the ethanol industry: "I agree with subsidies for energy independence," he said. The tax credit expires in 2010.

Besides expanding nuclear power and renewable fuels like ethanol, Giuliani also called for more clean coal technologies, more clean-burning natural gas, environmentally safe drilling for oil and natural gas in North America and new technologies like hybrid cars and hydrogen fuel cells.