Thursday, December 22, 2011

Rick Perry talks Keystone XL, fracking in Decorah, Iowa

Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry faced tough questions and even direct criticism from voters attending a December 18, 2011 town hall meeting in Decorah, Iowa, after he claimed that there is no proof tying groundwater pollution to hydraulic fracking.

The Texas Governor dedicated around ten minutes of the nearly hour-long event to energy issues, arguably his topic of choice on the campaign trail.

Perry began with his usual attack on the EPA, and called for the job of environmental regulation to be transferred to the states:
Rick Perry: I didn’t get around to tellin’ ya about the John Deer and the new engine that they're – the federal government has new emissions standards on this new engine that John Deer is building and its on the nitrogen oxide level. 
And I will tell you that I understand about environmental protections and I’m going to tell you just a quick story about Texas in a second and how EPA’s come in and tried to take over what we’re doing in our state and we’ve cleaned up our air more than any other state in the nation.
But the cost to that tractor is going to be $20,000 a copy.
You’re going to have to pay that and I would suggest to you that the air – I mean the difference in the quality of the air that that tractor is going to make is going to be miniscule at best. 
And the people of Iowa know better how to keep their air clean and to make sure their water is clear and drinkable than some bureaucrat in Washington, D.C.
And so these regulations, whether they’re bank regulations or they’re environmental regulations, they are strangling this country. 
I’ll pull every regulation that has gone forward since ’08 and test it for this simple fact: Does it kill jobs or does it create jobs?
And if it kills jobs, we’re going to get rid of them. 
We have the ability in our states to protect our environment.
And, as I shared with you, we cleaned up our air more than any other state in the nation.
Nitrogen oxide levels were down by 58% in the decade that we just finished. 
It’s our people. It’s our air. 
Why would we spoil that with the sensibilities in the state.

Next, Perry fielded two softball questions about the Keystone XL oil pipeline:
Voter: Yeah, on the oil pipeline from Canada tar sands down to Texas for exporting gas and oil versus exporting through British Columbia, Seattle.
What’s your pros and cons of that pipeline proposal?
Rick Perry: I’ve had some pretty lengthy conversations with both the Canadians and the governors that represent the states where that pipeline will go. 
Not all of them, but some pretty lengthy conversations.
I have been a proponent of that pipeline.
Energy independence should be a goal for this country.
That’s the reason when I talked about I’m an all of the above energy person.
I don’t think we should shut out any type of legitimate energy source.
I’m not for giving those tax credits, but I am for developing them and removing the regulatory hurdles. 
And what we’ve got today – that oil is going to go one of two directions. 
It’s either going to go West and the Chinese will buy it or it will go south for the United States consumption.
Every barrel of oil that goes south is one barrel of oil that we will not have to import from foreign countries, and in some cases foreign countries that are hostile to this country.
I mean, I look forward to the day when we can tell Mr. Hugo Chavez, “No thank you, we don’t need any Venezuelan oil.”
But that pipeline creates a lot of jobs, and I’m talking about in the development of the pipeline.
I’m talking about in the building of the pipeline.
I don’t agree that the President should veto this bill.
He should let this pipeline occur.
And I know he’s being pressured by those on the radical environmental side of the aisle that want him to not build this pipeline.
This pipeline has been studied for at least three years.
The information that I have on it, I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I’m an absolute expert, but the information is that it is one of the safest pipelines if not the safest pipeline that’s ever been built.
And there are already pipelines that go across the Ogallala aquifer in Nebraska, which the bone of contention that they’re making.
So this pipeline needs to be built. We need to be looking for every source of energy.
I want to wrap up, one more thing about energy and then I’m coming to you sir.
The federal lands and waters that we have hands off right now for exploration should be opened up.
Only 8% of the proven reserves on our federal lands – and I understand there are places in our federal parks where we’re not going to be exploring. 
I mean, we’re not going to be going into the Everglades.
We’re not going into Yellowstone.
But we’ve got millions of acres of federal lands with proven reserves on them that need to be opened up so that we can safely produce those resources. 
And I would use a substantial amount if not all of that revenue coming into the federal government to help pay down the debt.
Voter: What do you expect to see happen to our local gas and also national gas prices on gasoline if that pipeline goes through?
Rick Perry: I don’t think you’ll see a big change, would be my instinct, until the infrastructure built.
Here’s what I think occurs when that pipeline is built, because then there’s confidence.
People will feel substantially more secure that this supply of oil in this case is going to have – is going to be coming.
We have found sources of energy that we had no idea that we have ten years ago.
I’m sure all of us have heard the stories a decade ago that we have found all of the petroleum products that there are.
They’ve all been found.
You know, we may be able to improve some secondary tertiary recovery to get it all out, but we’ve found it all.
And then we find these huge natural gas deposits that people didn’t know were there.
Frankly, we don’t know what’s under Iowa. 
The technology hadn’t been developed yet maybe.
That Iowa may be sitting on top of huge reserves of natural gas or oil that people haven’t found yet.
So my point is that the way to drive those prices down – and for American citizens that are on fixed income, I think one of the most important thinks that we could do as a country is to expand our energy exploration and our energy industry, whether it’s corn based with ethanol, or whether it’s gas, or with solar or wind.
Because once you get that huge amount of energy, you can drive down the cost of that energy.
Gasoline, electricity, the manufacturing costs, the costs of living can go down in this country if we will apply our energy resources that we have.
We’ve got 300 years worth of energy in this country.

Perry fell out of stride when confronted with a question about the environmental impacts of hydraulic fracking:
Voter: In reference to the natural gas, you talked about how there’s a huge natural gas deposit, it’s been proven that that technology to extract that energy has polluted groundwater.
Rick Perry: No ma’am.
Voter: Yes sir, it has.
Rick Perry: No ma’am.
We can have this conversation, but you cannot show me one place where there is a proven, not one, where there is a proven pollution of groundwater by hydraulic fracking.
Voices of other voters in the room: That’s false! That’s just false sir.
Rick Perry: Bring me the paper.
Show me the paper.
I’m just telling you – this whole – I am truly offended that the American public would be hoodwinked by stories that do not scientifically hold up.
If that was true it would be on the front page of every newspaper.
It would be on ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox News.
Everybody would be running that story.
We have be using hydraulic fracturing in my home state for years, and this is a fear tactic that the left is using and the environmental community is using to absolutely, excuse the pun, but does not hold water.
Voters again: That’s not true.
Rick Perry: Bring me the evidence.
And once you do that, you show it to me and I’ll be the first to say, “You’ve got a point.”

It didn’t take long for someone to step up to the plate and respond to Perry’s challenge. Within 24 hours, CBS News had posted a story covering the exchange, complete with link to a December 8, 2011 story bearing the headline “EPA suspects fracking linked to pollution”. That story covered an EPA study that, while still in draft form, links fracking to groundwater pollution.

C-Span has complete video of Rick Perry's town hall meeting in Decorah, Iowa.

Photo of Rick Perry by Ed Schipul via Wikipedia Commons

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