Republican presidential candidates on the environment

Feb 23, 2012

The Republican candidates for president have taken their messages of energy independence on the road in Michigan. The state’s primary is just a few days away.

Rick Santorum has been the most vocal candidate about energy and environmental issues on his campaign stops in Michigan. He says “radicals” are blocking energy independence and economic growth in the country.

At a campaign stop in west Michigan this week Rick Santorum was asked for his stance on man-made global warming. He responded:

“There is a radical ideology of radical environmentalists, who, in fact, do put the earth above the needs of man, and see them in conflict with each other.”

Santorum says the federal government should focus on the needs of people first – such as the need for more jobs. He says when people have their needs met they are better able to take care of themselves and, in turn, the earth. He says ultimately the responsibility of environmental stewardship is on the individual. But Santorum says radical environmentalists are using global warming to manipulate the federal government.

“And so I never signed on with global warming. I realized…[applause]”

And then Santorum clarified—

“Let me be specific so I’m not taken out of context—manmade global warming. I do believe the Earth warms, I do believe it cools.”

Santorum rejects the science of climate change – though the vast majority of scientists agree that climate change is real and caused mostly by people.

Santorum also says the federal government needs to stop hoarding and protecting the country’s bountiful natural resources. He says natural gas and coal could be used to enrich the United States, lower fuel costs at the pump, and establish energy independence. His rival, Michigan-native Mitt Romney, agrees.

“Coal, oil, gas, nuclear, solar, wind, ethanol – use all those resources, so we have an ample supply of energy ourselves, and don’t have to send hundreds of billions of dollars buying energy every year. And by the way, put in place that keystone pipeline. That’s a no-brainer.”

But environmentalists in Michigan say the proposal to install an oil pipeline from Canada, through the middle of the U.S., is not a no-brainer for Michiganders. The Enbridge pipeline ruptured in the Kalamazoo River two summers ago.

“Yeah, I think Michigan has seen the dangers firsthand that communities around the country face.”

That’s Jordan Lubetkin with the Michigan chapter of the National Wildlife Federation.

“Pipeline spills are not a rare occurrence. In fact they happen hundreds of time per year.”

The Keystone pipeline proposal is an issue on which all of the major Republican candidates appear to agree. That includes Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul, who have not campaigned in Michigan with Santorum and Romney. In fact, it appears there are few environmental issues the candidates disagree on. All of the candidates have also spoken in favor of more drilling for oil and hydraulic fracturing for natural gas. But the theme that runs through all of the energy platforms is finding ways to create more jobs while diminishing dependence on foreign oil.

Ryan Werder with the Michigan League of Conservation Voters says the intersection of energy and job creation could play perfectly in Michigan.

“The candidates are talking so much about market forces, and they’re talking about ‘let the private sector do as it will,’ and I agree. Clean energy is where the market is going.”

And Werder says Michigan is equipped with a strong manufacturing industry ready to build on wind and solar energy industries. Werder says he wishes at least one of the Republican candidates would address the economic opportunities presented by clean energy.

“We’ve suffered a greater economic depression than any other state in the country, and so we need to be the most innovative, and the most forward-thinking out of any state in the country.”