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Rick Santorum At Republican Debate Defends Offshore Drilling, Keystone XL (VIDEO)

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The GOP's rallying cry of "drill, baby, drill" is alive and well.

Environmental policy, which had heretofore gone practically unmentioned on the campaign trail, was the topic of several questions at Monday night's debate. Not that that's a surprise in Florida, where offshore oil drilling poses a threat to the all-important tourism industry and the state's prized Everglades region has repeatedly come under attack.

One questioner asked Santorum whether he thinks expanding offshore drilling is worth the risk, claiming it would create only 5,000 jobs while an oil spill could tar Florida's beaches and by extension its tourism industry, which employs nearly a million people.

Santorum remained unmoved.

"What threatens the tourist industry in Florida, as we're seeing, is a very bad economy -- and a very bad economy that became a bad economy why? Because of a huge spike in oil prices in the summer of 2008. So energy is absolutely key to keeping all of our country healthy, specifically Florida, which is a destination. This is a place that relies on people being able to travel and afford to travel to come down here," Santorum continued, "it relies upon an economy being strong."

Santorum's response should come as no surprise. The former Pennsylvania senator has long called for more offshore drilling, in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and beyond. Further, like many practically every other GOP candidate, Santorum has voiced his doubts about global warming -- and he has plenty of company within the Republican presidential field.

In 2008, Gingrich appeared in an ad alongside then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) urging the country to address climate change, before walking back those views entirely earlier in his campaign for president, calling it one of the "stupidest" things he'd ever done.

Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) meanwhile has also become increasingly skeptical of climate change. In a 2009 interview with Fox News, he said, "the greatest hoax I think that has been around for many, many years if not hundreds of years has been this hoax on the environment and global warming."

Santorum at Monday's debate also called for the approval of the Keystone XL, the controversial oil pipeline that would import crude oil from tar sands in Canada and has been the topic of dozens of protests outside the White House.

"It is absolutely essential that we have as much domestic supply of oil, that we build the Keystone pipeline, that we create the jobs that provide oil from domestic sources, pipelines the run on the floor of the sea or pipelines that come to America are the safest way to transport oil. It is tankers that cause much more problems," he added. "Pipelines are the safe way, building those rigs, into our shores is the best way to create a good economy and a safer Florida."

It's not the first time Republican presidential candidates have called for expanded drilling and the passage of the controversial oil pipeline.

Gingrich has long called for lifting restrictions on offshore drilling. And Romney has repeatedly called for the passage of the pipeline, accusing President Obama during a debate in South Carolina last week, of bowing to the "most extreme members" of the environmental movement in rejecting a permit for the pipeline.

"You go across the country with regards with energy, and because he has to bow to the most extreme members of the environmental movement he turns down the Keystone pipeline, which would bring energy and jobs to America," Romney said to a smattering of boos that may well have been directed at the president.

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