Tuesday, June 14, 2011

2011 NH Republican Presidential Debate Energy Roundup

Seven of the top contenders for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination met at Saint Anselm College in Manchester last night for the first New Hampshire debate of the 2012 election season. Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Tim Pawlenty, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum all commented on energy during the debate. 

Herman Cain:

“We don't just have one problem; we have a crisis of the three E's. We've got the economy, entitlement spending, and energy.”

Newt Gingrich:

“The Obama administration is an anti-jobs, anti-business, anti- American energy destructive force.”

Tim Pawlenty:

“We need to have a pro-American energy policy.”

Ron Paul:

CNN's John King noted that the federal government offers subsidies to many industries, specifically mentioning green jobs, the auto industry and research and development. He then asked Ron Paul, "Given the current state of the economy what standards to you have, if any, for government assistance to private enterprise?"

Paul's response:

Given the current state of the economy, what standards do you have, if any, for government assistance to private enterprise?
There shouldn't be any government assistance to private enterprise. It's not morally correct, it's legal, it's bad economics. It's not part of the constitution. If you allow an economy to thrive, they'll decide how R&D works or where they invest their monies. 

But when the politicians get in and direct things, you get the malinvestment. They do the dumb things. They might build too many houses. And they might not direct their research to the right places. So no, it's a fallacy to think that government and politicians and bureaucrats are smart enough to manage the economy, so it shouldn't happen.

The New Hampshire Senate recently voted to delay action on HB 648, a bill that “prohibits public utilities from petitioning for permission to take private land or property rights for the construction or operation of certain transmission facilities.” Specifically, the bill is aimed at blocking construction of new transmissions lines through the heart of the Granite State as part of The Northern Pass project. If completed, the project would supply New England’s power grid with hydroelectric energy from Canada.

John Distaso, a leading political reporter for The Union Leader, asked Ron Paul to answer the question, “Should governments at any level be able to use eminent domain for major projects that will reduce America's dependence on foreign oil?” 

Here is Paul’s response:
No. We -- we shouldn't have that power given to the government where they can take private land and transfer it to a private industry. The eminent domain laws are going to vary in different states, but we have the national eminent domain laws. It was never meant to take it from some people, private owners, and then take it and give it to a corporation because it's going to help that locality. 

And this goes back to the basic understanding of property rights. Property and free society should be owned by the people, and it shouldn't be regulated to death by the governments, whether it's Washington, D.C., or local governments. 

Right now, we really don't own our land. We just pay rent on our land and we listen to all these regulations. So I would say that courts should get out of the way, too. They should not have this right to take land from individuals to provide privileges for another group.

Mitt Romney

Distaso also asked Mitt Romney, who owns a summer home in Wolfeboro, to answer a similar question about the Northern Pass project. “There are a lot of people in the state who are concerned about this project, but they also want to have energy independence,” he said. “How do you feel about that?”

Romney’s answer:

Well, I don't believe that land should be taken -- the power of government to give to a private corporation. And so the right of eminent domain is a right which is used to foster a public purpose and public ownership for a road, highways, and so forth. And so my view is, if land is going to be taken for purposes of a private enterprise, that's the wrong way to go.
Now, the right answer for us to have energy independence is to start developing our own energy in this country, and we're not doing that. We -- we have a huge find with natural gas; 100 years of new natural gas has been found. More drilling for oil, natural gas, clean coal. We have coal in great abundance, nuclear power ultimately, and all the renewables. But it's time for us to have a president who really cares about finally getting America on track for energy security.

Rick Santorum

The words “drill” and “drilling” only popped up a total of four times in the debate, but appeared four times in just one statement by Rick Santorum. The former Senator from Pennsylvania was asked to comment on Tim Pawlenty’s economic plan, but preferred to aim his comments at President Obama:

Throw on top of that what this president's done on energy. The reason we're seeing this second dip is because of energy prices, and this president has put a stop sign again -- against oil drilling, against any kind of exploration offshore or in Alaska, and that is depressing. We need to drill. We need to create energy jobs, just like we're doing, by the way, in Pennsylvania, where we're drilling 3,000 wells this year for gas, and gas prices are down -- natural gas prices are down as a result.

Apparently, the U.S. Senate will vote today on abolishing the ethanol tax, a big issue in Iowa. WMUR’s Josh McElveen asked Santorum to weigh in on the situation.

Here is what he had to say:

Yeah, I actually had proposed that we can phase out the ethanol subsidy, which is the blender's credit, over a five-year period of time. I also proposed, as part of helping him in that transition -- one other thing. I also phase out the tariff on ethanol coming into this country over that five-year period of time. 

One of the issues for the ethanol industry is distribution networks. So I would take half of that credit every year, 4.5 cents, and use it to help expand distribution for E-85 in other areas of the country. And that all would be shut down in five years. 

And I say that because I think the ethanol industry -- I voted against ethanol subsidies my entire time in Congress. But I will tell you, the ethanol industry has matured greatly, and I think they are actually capable of surviving and doing quite well going forward under that -- under that plan.

A full transcript of the June 13, 2011 New Hampshire Republican Presidential Debate is available on CNN.com.

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