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A Partisan Environment? A Partisan Environment?

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A Partisan Environment?

Where potential 2012 Republican candidates stand on environmental issues.

The smoke stacks at American Electric Power's (AEP) Mountaineer coal power plant in New Haven, West Virginia, October 30, 2009. In cooperation with AEP, the French company Alstom unveiled the world's largest carbon capture facility at a coal plant, so called 'clean coal,' which will store around 100,000 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide a year 2,1 kilometers (7,200 feet) underground(SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

photo of Carrie Mihalcik
April 17, 2011

Republican efforts to limit the power of the Environmental Protection Agency during this year's budget debate have helped cement the environment as a partisan issue for the 2012 elections. Here’s a look at where some of the potential Republican White House contenders stand on environmental issues.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich

As speaker, Gingrich tried unsuccessfully to roll back several environmental laws that were passed during 1970s and championed the stance that environmental regulations have gone too far in restricting energy and economic growth.


During a recent speech at Salem State University in Massachusetts, Gingrich criticized Obama for supporting offshore drilling in Brazil while hindering American companies drilling in the United States. Gingrich stressed the need to use the maximum amount of American oil, natural gas, coal, and biofuel.


In recent years, Gingrich has urged conservatives not to leave the cause of environmentalism entirely to liberals, though he has called a federal tax on carbon "utterly irrational" and stated that there is no conclusive proof that humans are at the center of global warming. In 2008, Gingrich filmed an ad with then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., for Al Gore's Alliance for Climate Protection urging action on climate change. Gingrich has since tried to distance himself from the ad.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney

Romney, who is officially exploring a 2012 bid, criticized President Obama for pushing cap-and-trade through the House in 2009. In a fundraising e-mail, Romney said the legislation would "have a devastating impact on hard-working American families and on our economy as a whole."

He has also gone after cap-and-trade in his latest book, No Apology: The Case for American Greatness, writing that it is "an energy tax that would have little or no effect on global warming." Instead, Romney suggests increasing taxes on carbon while offsetting taxes elsewhere.

Romney is using oil drilling as a campaign point, saying Obama’s energy choices "are not enough to get us energy-independent or to affect in a significant way our oil prices long term." Romney supports offshore drilling as well as opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. He calls for using all possible sources of energy: "That means nuclear power. It means offshore drilling. It means more natural gas. It means liquefied coal, as well as ethanol, solar, wind power."

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty

Pawlenty, who launched his exploratory committee in March, supported legislation to deal with climate change as governor but says he has since changed his position. Then-Gov. Pawlenty signed the Next Generation Energy Act of 2007 and the Midwestern Greenhouse Gas Reduction Accord, two pieces of legislation that took steps to reduce greenhouse gases.

He recently apologized on The Laura Ingraham Show for supporting climate legislation, saying, "It was a mistake, it was stupid." He added that cap-and-trade legislation would be an "unhelpful, damaging thing to the economy." Pawlenty is also quick to point out that other 2012 contenders have also supported cap-and-trade legislation in the past.

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour

Barbour, who once worked as an energy lobbyist, is a longtime opponent of regulating carbon. In 2009, he called on Republicans to join him in opposing congressional cap-and-trade legislation, saying the Obama administration was proposing more expensive energy and higher costs for families "in the name of climate change and reducing greenhouse-gas emissions."

Barbour has also aligned himself against EPA in a lawsuit between the agency and the Board of Mississippi Levee Commissioners. In 2008, the agency vetoed the Yazoo Backwater Project to build a pump to drain wetlands and farmlands when the Mississippi River is high.  The EPA said the project didn't meet requirements to proceed under the Clean Water Act. A representative for Barbour, before the pump was vetoed, said negative comments about the project were only coming from people who don’t live in Mississippi.

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin


Palin is a harsh critic of the Obama administration’s cap-and-trade bill, which she referred to as "job-killing, burdensome, cap-and-trade -- I call it cap-and-tax -- legislation." During the "climategate" e-mail scandal in 2009, just before a U.N. environmental summit in Copenhagen, she decried the politicization of environmental research, saying, "The agenda-driven policies being pushed in Copenhagen won't change the weather, but they would change our economy for the worse."

When she was governor of Alaska, Palin's administration sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to remove the polar bear as a threatened species. The state’s argument is that polar bear populations are stable and that melting sea ice does not pose an imminent threat to their survival. Palin’s successor, Republican Sean Parnell, has continued the litigation.

Palin has also voiced support for increased drilling for oil, including drilling in ANWR and shallow water. She criticized Obama’s moratorium on deep-water drilling after the 2010 BP oil spill: "They’re capitalizing on this crisis, with the spill in the Gulf to say they do not want continued off shore drilling. Well isn't that convenient."

Texas Rep. Ron Paul

The author of End the Fed has gone further than any other Republican candidate in campaigning for the reduction of the federal government, but he's more aligned with the party on environmental issues.

Paul opposed cap-and-trade legislation in 2009, calling global warming the "greatest hoax." He also supports increased oil drilling while criticizing government subsidies for ethanol.

"We should get the government out of the way and not prohibit drilling and encourage the drilling," he said in an interview with the Council on Foreign Relations. "So if ethanol is good—and you decide if it's good only by the market—but you subsidize it, then you cause people to raise corn, and then you burn the corn up, and then the corn prices go up and meat prices go up, and you have all kind of consequences."

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