Perry Unveils Energy Policy

GOP presidential candidate and Texas Gov. Rick Perry unveiled his energy policy Friday morning in a speech in West Mifflin, Pa.

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Guy Raz.

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And I'm Robert Siegel. First this hour, energy and the politics of energy. Texas Governor Rick Perry laid out his energy policy in a speech today. The Republican presidential candidate has been plunging in the polls. He's trying to regain some of his early momentum and offer more substance on his positions. And today, in Pittsburg, Perry vowed, as president, to open up new areas of the country to drilling. He said that would put more than a million people back to work. NPR's Jeff Brady attended the event and he has our story.

JEFF BRADY, BYLINE: This was billed as a major policy speech on energy and Rick Perry delivered it at a noisy U.S. steel plant, with a lot of people in suits and orange work clothes seated in the audience.

GOVERNOR RICK PERRY: America should not be, and when I'm the president of the United States, will not be held hostage by foreign oil and federal bureaucrats.

BRADY: That was one of just a few applause lines. Maybe it was the noisy environment, but the crowd seemed less than electrified by the speech. Perry repeatedly took aim at President Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency for what he called job killing regulations. Perry's campaign chose to deliver the message in a steel mill for a good reason. A natural gas drilling boom here has started breathing new life into the old steel industry. The thousands of wells being drilled every year all need a lot of metal pipe and other supplies.

PERRY: So you think about western Pennsylvania, you're known for producing some pretty great quarterbacks. And I want western Pennsylvania to quarterback a new energy revolution that creates jobs all across America.

BRADY: Perry echoes a mantra the oil industry has repeated many times during the recession, that increasing oil and natural gas production in the U.S. would lead to more good-paying jobs.

PERRY: And a big part of the solution is right under our feet and right off our coast.

BRADY: Perry says if elected he would push for drilling in places like Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and off the Atlantic coast. He would overhaul the EPA and place current air quality regulations under review. Perry says he also wants to take away the agency's oversight of greenhouse gases. The Texas governor says he would get rid of special subsidies and tax credits like the ones renewable energy producers enjoy and let the market decide the country's energy future.

DANIEL WEISS, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS ACTION FUND: Rick Perry's speech really sounded like big oil gone wild.

BRADY: Daniel Weiss is with the Center For American Progress Action Fund.

FUND: There's lots of benefits for big oil. They can pollute more. They can drill with fewer restrictions to prevent future oil disasters. They're gonna keep their tax breaks. So it's a oil - big oil's wish list.

BRADY: At the Sierra Club, executive director Michael Brune called Perry's plan a roadmap for making children sick. Adapting a chant popular in the 2008 campaign, he suggested the Republican mantra should be wheeze, baby, wheeze. Back at the U.S. steel mill near Pittsburg, the invited audience was less critical. George Koenig says he hasn't decided which Republican to vote for. Koenig is president of a metal company and says he appreciates Perry's criticism of President Obama's energy policies.

GEORGE KOENIG: It sounds like what Perry had to say this morning makes a lot of sense and is going in the right direction because it's certainly cloudy going in the other direction.

BRADY: Perry's focus on jobs and boosting business appealed to this crowd. Elaine Gowaty chairs the Westmoreland County Republican Party. She thinks this speech will help Perry recover from those debate stumbles earlier.

ELAINE GOWATY: I think he's doing - he'll do a good job. Everybody makes a mistake once in a while and you just get yourself - brush yourself off and keep going.

BRADY: One thing Perry's speech did not mention, increasing drilling doesn't happen overnight. Projects can take years to begin. But Perry says he would make significant progress on his energy agenda during his first 100 days in office. Jeff Brady, NPR News, Pittsburg.

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