Santorum and Gingrich dismiss climate change, vow to dismantle the EPA

GOLDEN — A day before Colorado Republicans voice presidential preferences at the caucuses, Rick Santorum dismissed climate change as “a hoax” and advocated an energy plan heavy on fossil fuels.

“We were put on this Earth as creatures of God to have dominion over the Earth, to use it wisely and steward it wisely, but for our benefit not for the Earth’s benefit,” Santorum told an audience at the Colorado School of Mines where he was a guest speaker Monday at the Colorado Energy Summit.

“We are the intelligent beings that know how to manage things and through the course of science and discovery if we can be better stewards of this environment, then we should not let the vagaries of nature destroy what we have helped create,” Santorum said to applause from the conservative crowd.

The former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania argued that science has been hijacked by politicians on the left, and that climate change is “an absolute travesty of scientific research that was motivated by those who, in my opinion, saw this as an opportunity to create a panic and a crisis for government to be able to step in and even more greatly control your life,” Santorum said.

Rick Santorum speaking in Golden. (Photo by Troy Hooper)

“I for one never bought the hoax. I for one understand just from science that there are one hundred factors that influence the climate. To suggest that one minor factor of which man’s contribution is a minor factor in the minor factor is the determining ingredient in the sauce that affects the entire global warming and cooling is just absurd on its face. And yet we have politicians running to the ramparts — unfortunately politicians who happen to be running for the Republican nomination for president — who bought into man-made global warming and bought into cap and trade,” he said, before criticizing presidential rivals Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney by name for their previous positions on cap and trade and climate change.

Gingrich, speaking an hour before Santorum at the Colorado Energy Summit, said he regretted a TV commercial he shot with Democrat Nancy Pelosi that addressed climate change. He called it “the dumbest single thing I’ve done in five or six years. … It was stupid.” He said part of his Pelosi hangover is tied to his diminishing confidence in climate science. Asked by a man in the audience whether he believes human activities can cause climate change, Gingrich pleaded ignorance.

“I believe we don’t know. I am an amateur paleontologist. The planet has changed its temperature a number of times,” Gingrich rambled. “… If you look at the Antarctic today, you’ll figure it [must've been] a lot warmer when the dinosaurs were there. So what I’ve said in the past is I’m happy to take prudent measures that aren’t very expensive. So if we can find relatively inexpensive, safe nuclear power, I’m for it. The fact that Iowa produces 20 percent of its electricity from wind is fine. There’s a lot of things you can do with the margin. What I would not do is I would not turn the power over to bureaucracy to run the entire country. I have always opposed cap and trade …”

Newt Gingrich at the Colorado School of Mines on Monday. (Photo by Troy Hooper)

While Gingrich and Santorum don’t agree on whether the 58th Speaker of the House ever favored cap-and-trade legislation, they do share a common disdain for the Environmental Protection Agency. If he is elected president, Gingrich said he would abolish the EPA and replace it with something he calls the Environmental Solutions Agency. He also said he would fundamentally overhaul the Department of Interior and on his first day in office, he would sign an executive order approving the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.

Oil and gas, he said, is “so central” to the nation’s future energy portfolio.

“Environmentalists,” Gingrich added, “have been infiltrated over the last 40 years by people on the left who are against business and against local control and they use the environment as an excuse.”

Santorum, meanwhile, claimed “there is a war on fossil fuels in this country by [the Obama] administration.” Like Gingrich, the native Pennsylvanian vowed to open up more public lands to oil and gas drilling. Don’t worry, he promised, Yellowstone would be left alone. But there is a lot of Bureau of Land Management and other federal land that Santorum said would be better served by the oil and gas industry, ranching or other human uses. He cringed every time he mentioned the Endangered Species Act and blamed it for hurting business. Santorum told the story of how the Endangered Species Act is preventing the harvesting of a forest with profitable wood in his home state.

“We have the Endangered Species Act, which has prevented us from timbering all sorts of acreage there,” he said. “It’s bankrupted the school district and the like because of the government’s inability to allow for us to care for our resources. A forest in my opinion is like a garden and you’ve got to care for it. If you don’t care for it, you leave it to nature and nature will do what it does: boom and bust.”

Stressing the importance for the country to provide cheap energy to its citizens, Santorum blamed the recession not on sub-prime mortgages or the derivatives market but on spiking fuel prices.

“We went into a recession in 2008. People forget why. They thought it was a housing bubble. The housing bubble was caused because of a dramatic spike in energy prices that caused the housing bubble to burst,” Santorum told the audience. “People had to pay so much money to air condition and heat their homes or pay for gasoline that they couldn’t pay their mortgage.”

The nation’s energy policy is a key talking point this election season.

“This is the most anti-American energy administration we have ever had,” Gingrich said. “… You have the highest cost of gasoline in American history. And I think that if you’re an editorial writer at the New York Times and you live in a high-rise in Manhattan and you ride the subway to work, it may not occur to you that for most Americans a high price of gasoline is a real problem.”

Gingrich called Obama’s “all-of-the-above” energy plan “very dangerous and very destructive.” He claimed the need for the Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act underscores the EPA’s overreach.

GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney was also in Colorado on Monday, giving speeches in Grand Junction and Centennial. He is scheduled to speak in Loveland on Tuesday morning. Romney, also a proponent of the Keystone XL pipeline, looks primed for a big win in Colorado. He leads Republican voters in the state with 40 percent to 26 percent for Rick Santorum, 18 percent for Newt Gingrich, and 12 percent for Ron Paul, according to Public Policy Polling. Paul was in Colorado last week.

Check out this video shot at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden on Monday of Rick Santorum discussing his views on public lands, domestic energy and his problems with public education:

Here, Newt Gingrich discusses U.S. energy policy in Golden where he says, “If you want to measure what our goal is, it is to ensure that no American president ever again bows to a Saudi king …”

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About the Author

Troy Hooper

Troy Hooper covers environmental policy for the American Independent News Network. His work has been published in The Denver Post, Rocky Mountain News, Huffington Post, San Francisco Weekly, Playboy, New York Post, People and dozens of other publications. Hooper has covered the Winter Olympics in Italy, an extreme ski camp in South America and gone behind the scenes with Hunter S. Thompson on election night in 2004. Born and raised in Boulder, Hooper has a bachelor's degree in English from the University of California at Santa Barbara.

5 Comments

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