Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich address a sympathetic crowd at the Alabama Theater (click here to see more photos)
by Glynn Wilson
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Georgia Republican Newt Gingrich came out swinging against President Obama on energy policy at the Alabama Theater Monday night, the day before the primary election in the state, due to comments by the president’s press secretary responding to Gingrich’s provocative statement on the campaign trail: “I’ve been talking about the need for an American energy policy, and the idea that we should develop our capacity for oil to the point where no American president would ever again bow to a Saudi King.”
That’s a great applause line for the Republican base, like those gathered at the theater in downtown Birmingham, but it also suffers the same problem with most of Rick Santorum’s rhetoric and that of Mitt Romney as well. Those kinds of oil reserves do not exist on American soil even if we sent drillers in places even they do not want to go and to depths that cannot be reached. New Gingrich knows this, or he should.
He also knows this: The only way we are ever going to get past our dependence on oil from the Middle East is to develop alternative energy sources. That strategy also just happens to be in our national interest to reduce air pollution to improve our health, and to reduce our dependence on burning fossil fuels for energy that leads to global warming and climate change.
But the Republican base believes in God and in bringin’ on the “End Times,” so not only do they not “believe” in global warming, they are not interested in saving the planet. According to their book, the earth is going to be destroyed anyway so why worry?
This is what should scare Republican leaning voters who actually understand science, appreciate the natural environment, and just vote Republican so they don’t have to pay taxes. It should also scare anyone who would like to see government in this country work to solve problems, rather than continuing to create crisis after crisis, like we all saw during the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
“Now I have suggested that if we developed our energy capacity to the degree we could,” Gingrich said, “that would bring down the price of gasoline on the theory that supply and demand works.”
Unfortunately, the price of oil and gas is not so simple as that anymore, as Gingrich knows. Market speculation based on rumors of wars and such drives those prices these days as much as supply and demand.
“This is not something Obama is very used to,” Gingrich said, to wild applause. “This is not a bureaucratic, trickle-down, shovel-ready Solyndra investment, let’s-go-bankrupt-together policy.”
After Gingrich made the claim that he could do that, and the national press corps asked about it, press secretary Jay Carney said of President Obama:
“What he is not willing to do is look the American people in the eye and claim that there is a strategy by which he can guarantee the price of gas will be $2.50 at the pump. Any politician who says that is lying because that strategy does not exist. It is a simple fact that there is no such plan.”
And he would be right.
Gingrich is coming up with one liners to fire up the base and try to get their support over Romney and Santorum. Again, there’s no basis in fact here.
But of course Gingrich, who will not be the Republican nominee and will never meet President Obama in a nationally televised debate during this campaign, said in Birmingham: “Mr. President, I will be happy to debate you anywhere in the country, anytime.”
Gingrich said if he becomes the nominee, he would challenge Obama to seven Lincoln-Douglas style three-hour debates.
He called the president’s speeches on energy policy “so patently incoherent as to be indefensible,” so he challenged the president to meet at “an oil rig, a refinery, at a gas station. I would even be willing to go to a university campus where you will feel comfortable,” he said, in an obvious anti-intellectual jab for the red-meat crowd.
“And, I will be happy to agree in advance that you can use a teleprompter,” he said to wild laughter. The Republicans are now making jokes on the campaign trail about the president using a teleprompter and all claiming that they never do, as if they wouldn’t if they were ever lucky enough to be elected president.
Gingrich rattled off some numbers about billions of gallons of oil being discovered in North Dakota, Texas and California, then he took on an idea he said “Washington liberals don’t want to deal with.”
“The idea of peak energy is a stupid idea. It does not exist,” Gingrich claimed. “It has been the basis of American energy policy for 40 years and it is wrong.”
Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House who was ousted in an ethics scandal in the mid-’90s and left his wife on her death bed to marry a Congressional aide, claimed: “The president will never learn this, for a variety of reasons. One is idealogical and the other’s his choice.”
President Obama appointed Dr. Steven Chu as the “secretary of anti-energy,” Gingrich said, who he claims advocates Americans paying the same price for gas as Europeans, $9 to $10 a gallon (you can boo now too. The audience did).
Dr. Chu responded to mainstream media questions about this last week, apparently, and said, accurately, that the Secretary of Energy is not charged with lowering the price of gas. It is his responsibility to develop replacements for gasoline, which is in fact a wise energy policy position.
You see, Mr. Obama appoints qualified candidates who know the science. Dr. Chu is a Nobel Prize Winner in Physics. Gingrich studied American history at Tulane. Who would you trust?
I’ll take Dr. Chu in that debate.
But what would Newt do?
“I believe the lesson of where we are is that we should I abolish the Department of Energy,” he said, again to rousing applause.
Gingrich promised “no more boondoggles” like Solyndra if he is elected.
He did say Obama was right about one thing.
“The president said there are no silver bullets. He’s right,” Gingrich admitted. “But there is a presidential pen. He could sign three documents and change the oil trajectory of the United States. First, he could approve the Keystone XL pipeline. That is 700,000 barrels a day of Canadian oil coming to Houston,” he said, and it would open up and improve delivery in North Dakata, Kansas, Arkansas, Oklahoma and East Texas.
But even it had been approved earlier this year, it would not be online for years, which sort of blows Newt’s supply and demand argument.
Somebody told him in Oklahoma that it could lower the cost of oil by $6 to $8 a barrel, but again, it won’t happen by this summer, and he did not reveal the source of that estimate so it could have been any man on the street.
Second, according to Gingrich, the president could reopen closed areas in the Gulf of Mexico off Louisiana and Texas, where we could supposedly bring in 400,000 barrels a day. Third, he could approve designated areas in Alaska for about 1.2 million barrels. But of course that would involve opening up the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge to drilling, which would be a huge controversy in an election year, and besides, the oil companies have indicated the area is too hard to get to for cost effective drilling anyway. This is pure political rhetoric not based in the reality of oil economics. But it sure does garner a round of applause.
President Obama has said in his speeches that drilling is not the answer for the long-term supply problem or the short-term price problem.
Predictably, Gingrich made fun of Obama for talking about the potential future of energy from algae.
“You can elect president algae and have $10 a barrel (I think he meant a gallon, but he said barrel, twice. It’s on the video recording I have of the event). Or you can elect president drill-em and have $2.50 a barrel. You decide which future’s better for your family.”
Gingrich said Republicans need a candidate who knows how to exploit people’s concern for gas prices in television ads, “and someone who can work with Congress to get something done.”
He pledged his first act in office if elected would be to repeal “Obamacare,” as well as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act passed early during the Bush years to hold corporate executive accountable for fraud.
Yeah, corporations and executives do not have enough perks and privileges these says. Let’s let them off the legal hook again.
Gingrich said about two hours after he is sworn in, he will sign a series of executive orders, including one to “abolish all White House Czars.” That one got thunderous applause, whistles and howls, even though it is meaningless. It was Bush who had Czars anyway. Obama has never called special envoys that.
On his first day, Newt said, he would move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem “in defense of Israel.” He promised to re-impose Ronald Reagan’s Mexico City policy and spend no taxpayer money on abortions outside the country.
He called the Obama administration a bunch of “radical Islamic religious fanatics” who “attack the Catholic Church” and “right to life institutions,” and said on the first day in office he would sign an executive order “repealing every anti-religious act of this administration.”
Not that there have been any. This is a right-wing Republican myth like the idea that Obama is not a natural born citizen and a Muslim, not a Christian, contrary to all the evidence.
Then, he is going around telling Canadians not to cut a deal with China on oil.
“Help is on the way,” he said. “We want the pipeline in the United States.”
The rest was just BS about the writings of Saul Alinsky, not apologizing to “those who are killing our men and women,” etc, like you’ve all heard before.
Don’t be fooled again.
Newt Gingrich at the podium with the head of the Alabama Republican Party
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