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Donnie Fowler

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GOP Presidential Candidates on Clean Energy and Climate Change

Posted: 08/30/11 04:59 PM ET

Are they playing to the right wing, or are they true believers? Are they owned by the oil companies, or are they willing to break from some of the Republican Party's largest campaign donors? Do they agree with 98 percent of scientists, or are facts mere inconveniences to be pushed aside for ideology and ambition? You decide what the candidates seeking the Republican nomination for president want to do about the clean-energy economic engine and the problem of man-made climate change.

Michele Bachmann (U.S. Representative, R-Minn.)

Asked about the "man-made climate change myth" and "green jobs" in an August campaign event, Bachmann said, "I think all these issues have to be settled on the base of real science, not manufactured science." In a 2009 House floor speech, the congresswoman challenged the idea that carbon dioxide is harmful to humans: "Carbon dioxide is not a harmful gas; it is a harmless gas ... And yet we're being told that we have to reduce this natural substance and reduce the American standard of living to create an arbitrary reduction in something that is naturally occurring in the Earth."

Bachmann has opposed raising fuel-efficiency standards and objected to requirements for energy-efficient light bulbs. She has called for the EPA to be abolished, labeling it the "job-killing organization of America" and pledging to have the EPA's "doors locked and lights turned off." She has also promised more domestic oil production while committing that "[u]nder President Bachmann, you will see gasoline come down below $2 a gallon again. That will happen."

Herman Cain (former CEO of Godfather's Pizza)

While speaking in Iowa in April, Mr. Cain stated, "There's a ... study that said that if we did all of the solar, all of the wind in every wind corridor in this country [that] we could, it might do 5 percent of our energy needs. All of this alternative stuff is a joke." Regarding the EPA, Mr. Cain has promised that, if elected, he would create a panel of oil and gas officials to instruct the agency in overhauling its permitting program, and he says that eliminating its permitting programs "would be an option."

Newt Gingrich (former Speaker of the House)

Mr. Gingrich has in the past said that the nation must do something to address climate change and has resisted calls to pull back on that. In a 2008 TV ad with Nancy Pelosi sponsored by Al Gore's Alliance for Climate Protection, the former House speaker said, "We do agree our country must take action to address climate change." His campaign website offers a "mostly everything" path: "Today's high gas and energy prices are entirely a function of bad government policies. Newt has an American Energy Plan that would maximize energy production from all sources -- oil, natural gas, wind, biofuels, nuclear, clean coal, and more -- and would encourage clean energy innovation without discouraging overall energy production." There is no mention of solar energy.

In a speech to the CPAC conference early this year, Gingrich called the EPA a "fundamental threat to freedom in this country" and accused it of being "anti-American jobs, anti-American business, anti-state government, anti-local control." Gingrich proposes deregulating fossil fuels, saying that we should rely on the inventiveness of the free market to solve our energy challenges.

Jon Hunstman (former Governor of Utah and Obama Ambassador to China)

In a May 16 Time magazine interview, Governor Huntsman ripped a western cap-and-trade compact he helped create as governor: "Cap-and-trade ideas aren't working; it hasn't worked, and our economy's in a different place than five years ago ... [P]utting additional burdens on the pillars of growth right now is counter-productive."

Nonetheless, Huntsman agreed that there is near-scientific consensus on the connection between climate change and human greenhouse gas emissions: "All I know is 90 percent of the scientists say climate change is occurring. If 90 percent of the oncological community said something was causing cancer we'd listen to them ... though we can debate what that means for the energy and transportation sectors." And in an August Tweet, following criticism from some conservatives, Huntsman reaffirmed his views, "To be clear. I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy."

Ron Paul (U.S. Representative, R-Tex.)

In Congress, Ron Paul has cosponsored bills that would offer tax breaks to Americans who commute by bicycle and use public transportation. His libertarian nature, though, results in a general view that when it comes to energy, we should "let the market work. Let supply and demand make the decision. Let prices make the decision. That is completely different than the bureaucratic and cronyism approach." He has explained his opposition to solutions to climate change by arguing, "We're not going to be very good at regulating the weather."

Paul strongly opposes requiring American automakers to increase fuel efficiency standards as well as providing incentives for alternative fuel vehicles. He voted "no" on enforcing limits on CO2 global warming pollution, tax credits for renewable electricity, tax incentives for energy production and conservation, tax incentives for renewable energy, removing oil and gas exploration subsidies, keeping a moratorium on drilling for oil offshore, raising CAFE standards, and prohibiting oil drilling and development in ANWR. He has said that abolishing the EPA is not one of his higher priorities.

Rick Perry (Governor of Texas)

Governor Perry told New Hampshire voters on Aug. 17 that he does not believe in man-made global warming, calling it a scientific theory that has not been proven. He wrote in his newest book that global warming is "all one contrived phony mess that is falling apart under its own weight," and has said, "I think there are a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects. And I think we're seeing almost weekly, or even daily, scientists who are coming forward and questioning the original idea that man-made global warming is what is causing the climate to change."

To fend off accusations that he is only supportive of fossil fuels, he often points out that Texas is a leader in wind energy, but credit for that largely goes to George W. Bush, who passed a renewable portfolio standard in 1999 when he was governor. A tougher version of it was passed in 2005 when Perry was governor, but according to Jim Marston, the regional director in Texas of the EDF, "Neither Governor Perry nor his people were involved in the writing or passage of that bill ... He has done nothing significant to advance the course of wind energy in Texas -- it was all done by others, and Perry has just taken credit for it."

Mitt Romney (former Governor of Massachusetts)

In a 2011 book positioning his run for the presidency, Governor Romney wrote, "I believe that climate change is occurring -- the reduction in the size of global ice caps is hard to ignore. I also believe that human activity is a contributing factor. ... Scientists are nearly unanimous in laying the blame for rising temperatures on greenhouse gas emissions." While reaffirming that in June, he appeared to backtrack on Aug. 24. Asked at a New Hampshire town hall meeting whether he believed in global warming and if humans contribute to rising temperatures, Romney said, "Do I think the world's getting hotter? Yeah, I don't know that but I think that it is ... I don't know if it's mostly caused by humans ... What I'm not willing to do is spend trillions of dollars on something I don't know the answer to," and, "I do not believe in putting a carbon tax" on polluters. Romney's campaign denies that the candidate's position has changed at all, citing his consistency on questioning exactly how much humans have contributed to global warming. Romney later added, "I think it's important for us to reduce our emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases that may well be significant contributors to the climate change and the global warming that you're seeing."

On EPA regulation, Romney has both criticized the EPA for attempting to regulate greenhouse gas emissions while supporting other aspects of EPA's mission. He wants more efficient energy alternatives here in the U.S., fuel-efficient vehicles, and public-private R&D partnerships. However, he did not support the Northeast's Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and has never supported cap-and-trade, arguing that it will place the United States' global competitiveness at a disadvantage. In an interview with U.S. News and World Report in December 2007, he called for an energy-focused "Apollo Project" to make America more innovative and competitive: "We are going to have to get ourselves independent of foreign oil, and that's going to require a substantial investment. ... I wish we could become energy independent for only $100 billion."

Tim Pawlenty (former Governor of Minnesota) -- Dropped Out

Having once taken climate change seriously as governor, including support for cap-and-trade, Pawlenty apologized in a March 2011 interview with Laura Ingraham: "Everybody in the race, at least the big names in the race, embraced climate change or cap-and-trade at one point or another, every one of us. ... It's misguided. I made the mistake. I admit it."