Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Newt Gingrich Talks Energy in New Hampshire (Video)

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was back in New Hampshire on Monday, where he shared views on cellulosic biofuels and oil drilling in North Dakota with local talk show host Al Kulas. Watch a video of their conversation below (the energy part starts at the 4:00 mark):

Al: “You mentioned in your talk that in Iowa unemployment was 2% because everybody was drilling oil…”

Newt: “No, no, no… in North Korea… North Dakota…”

Al: “Did some of the farmers realize that rather than wasting the value of their land growing corn for ethanol, they should take the corn out of it and drill for oil?”

Newt: “Actually, I think the part of North Dakota that produces oil is winter wheat country, but the farmers out there seem pretty darn happy with the amount of royalties that they’re getting out of the wells that are being drilled now…”

Al: “If I said, ‘Corn is food. Soy beans should be used for ethanol,’ what would you say?”

Newt: “Well, I think there are new technologies that allow you to use corn stalks and corn husks and other things. I am in favor of developing some biofuels and I think it can be done in a way that doesn’t affect the cost of food at all.”

For the record, North Dakota does have the lowest unemployment rate in the nation – 3.7% as of February 2011. However, chalking the state’s economic success up to oil alone is kind of like saying soy beans aren't food. 

Not surprisingly, the American Petroleum Institute (API) claims that oil and natural gas support 27,914 jobs in the Peace Garden State. API admits this figure includes the number of food service jobs supported by the industries' employees. So if an oil field worker in North Dakota buys a Big Mac, API takes credit for the burger flipper's job. Unless Big Oil  hired a small army of statisticians to follow employees to lunch, this sounds like fuzzy math. There is also little evidence to suggest that oil field workers would stop buying Big Macs if they changed jobs and started putting up wind turbines.

Newt's comments got me thinking about green jobs in North Dokata. It turns out the state is already home to 137 clean energy businesses and 2,112 clean energy jobs, according to a groundbreaking Pew Charitable Trust report. Pew researches didn’t just camp out at McDonald’s. They actually went out and counted the number of jobs created by companies doing the work of building America's clean energy future.

It is nice to see Newt Gingrich taking a break from the "Drill baby Drill" mentality of the Republican Party establishment. Seems like just yesterday that Newt was busy co-starring in “We can solve it” TV ads with Democrat Nancy Pelosi:

“We do agree our country must take action to solve climate change,” he said in this 2008 video, Nancy Pelosi at his side.

What happened? 

One explanation is that the former Speaker of the House underwent a sudden change of heart as soon as a Democrat landed in the White House. Another explanation is that Newt is simply reacting to the propaganda being pumped out of Big Oil funded think tanks in Washington. 

In 2009, researchers at the University of Massachusetts found that federal cap and trade legislation could create up to 4,000 new jobs in North Dakota. The idea was so terrifying to Big Oil companies like Exxon Mobile and Koch Industries that they quickly whipped up some statistics of their own. “Beware cap-and-trade” read the headline of a piece published in the Bismark Tribune in 2010. The article warned that enactment of the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES) could kill 5,000 to 7,000 jobs in North Dakota alone, while also jacking up the price of gasoline 24%, electricity 64%, and natural gas 77%. 

Where do these terrifying numbers come from?

They come from a report compiled by the America Council for Capital Formation, a Washington, D.C. based 501(c)(3) funded in part by Big Oil companies like Exxon Mobile and Koch Industries. Exxon alone has donated $1,674,523 to the group since 1998. Koch kicked in another $215,000 from 2005 to 2008.

Big Oil's misinformation campaign could not have been better timed. ACES had just become the first piece of federal climate legislation to make it out of the House of Representatives and was awaiting a vote in the U.S. Senate - a vote that would never come.  

With these kinds of numbers flying around, you can't blame ol' Newt for backing down on his support for clean energy solutions to climate change. In 2012, it will be up to the voters to let politicians know that "We the People" still support bipartisan solutions to the climate crisis that create green jobs and reduce America's dependence on foreign oil.


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