Does Obama elevate Earth above man?

Former Pa. Senator and GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum on "Face the Nation" Sunday, Feb. 19, 2011. CBS

Republican presidential candidate, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, takes questions from reporters after speaking at a rally, Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2012, in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho
Ted S. Warren/AP

(Commentary) Rick Santorum spent Sunday morning on "Face the Nation" explaining his statement uttered during a campaign stop in Ohio Saturday that President Obama espouses a phony ideal and a theology that is not based on the Bible.

Santorum said that his remarks about Obama's phony theology not based on the Bible referred to the president's environmental policies, not his religious faith. He argued that the Obama administration's environmental policies promote the ideas of "radical environmentalists," who he said elevate the Earth above man.

"This idea that man is here to serve the Earth as opposed to husband its resources and be good stewards of the Earth--I think that is a phony ideal. I don't believe that that's what we're here to do. That man is here to use the resources and use them wisely, to care for the Earth, to be a steward of the Earth. But we're not here to serve the Earth. The Earth is not the objective. Man is the objective. And, I think a lot of radical environmentalists have it upside down," Santorum told "Face the Nation" host Bob Schieffer.

From its first day in office, the Obama administration has had a kind of energy ideal, focusing on clean energy and energy independence, as well as the health of the planet. To say that Mr. Obama's environmental policies elevate the Earth above the needs of mankind and the health of the U.S. economy is, of course, more politically-induced rhetoric than reality. 

In his 2012 State of the Union address, Mr. Obama said:

 "... nowhere is the promise of innovation greater than in American-made energy. Over the last three years, we've opened millions of new acres for oil and gas exploration, and tonight, I'm directing my administration to open more than 75 percent of our potential offshore oil and gas resources. Right now -- right now -- American oil production is the highest that it's been in eight years. That's right -- eight years. Not only that -- last year, we relied less on foreign oil than in any of the past 16 years.

"But with only 2 percent of the world's oil reserves, oil isn't enough. This country needs an all-out, all-of-the-above strategy that develops every available source of American energy. A strategy that's cleaner, cheaper, and full of new jobs.

"We have a supply of natural gas that can last America nearly 100 years. (Applause.) And my administration will take every possible action to safely develop this energy. Experts believe this will support more than 600,000 jobs by the end of the decade. And I'm requiring all companies that drill for gas on public lands to disclose the chemicals they use. Because America will develop this resource without putting the health and safety of our citizens at risk."

The Obama administration also wants to get rid of tax breaks for oil companies, which is radical to the oil companies. In the fiscal 2013 budget proposal, Mr. Obama asked to roll back oil and gas tax preferences, which are worth about $40 billion over a decade.

Santorum clarifies prenatal testing, theology statements

Painting Mr. Obama as in league with "upside down," radical environmentalists has been part of Santorum's campaign narrative. The former Pennsylvania senator advocates eliminating many of the energy regulations set by the Obama administration, and more husbanding of U.S. environmental resources, such as more extensive hydraulic fracking, green-lighting the Keystone XL pipeline and oil exploration in Alaska's wilderness and other areas.

"We have to have all sorts of government regulations, because of the threats of hydrofracking," Santorum said during a campaign stop in Oklahoma City earlier this month. "It's the new boogey man. It's the new way to try to scare you and those folks particularly not from Oklahoma and Texas -- we're sort of new to this stuff, hydrofracking, in Pennsylvania."

"And they're preying on the Northeast, saying, 'Look what's going to happen. Ooh, all this bad stuff's going to happen, we don't know all these chemicals and all this stuff,'" he continued. "Let me tell you what's going to happen: Nothing's going to happen, except they will use this to raise money for the radical environmental groups so they can go out and continue to try to purvey their reign of environmental terror on the United States of America. We will stand up for the truth."

Environmentalists have raised concerns that the fracking process -- which involves extracting natural gas extracted from dense shale rock formations by injecting water under pressure to crack rocks and release the trapped gas -- could contaminate groundwater, release methane gas (a greenhouse gas) into the atmosphere and cause earthquakes.

In response to the Obama administration putting a decision on the Keystone pipeline, a 1,700-mile transcontinental pipeline from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast, on hold until 2013, Santorum said, "Today's decision by the Obama Administration is but another capitulation to the radical environmental fringe - and in turn putting our national security and economy at risk. Our nation needs energy and this pipeline will provide this much needed resource. In rejecting this responsible project that will create thousands of American jobs, we are simply diverting this energy to our international competitors like China. This announcement is utterly irresponsible and one more reason why Barack Obama is not the right man to lead this country. As President, I would approve the Pipeline on day-one." 

Upon rejection of the pipeline proposal, House Speaker John Boehner said, "The president wants to put this off until it's convenient for him to make a decision. That means after the next election. The fact is the American people are asking the question right now: Where are the jobs? The president's got an opportunity to create 100,000 new jobs almost immediately. The president should say yes."  A State Department study projected about 5,000 construction jobs if the pipeline were approved. The Obama administration cited concerns over the routing through Nebraska and the need for more environmental impact studies.

Does Mr. Obama place Earth above man in his policies? It's rather difficult to separate the health of the planet from the the health of the nearly 7 billion people who inhabit it. What's clear is that President Obama and former Pennsylvania Sen. Santorum have different ideals -- or even theologies -- on what good stewardship of the Earth and wise environmental policy means.   

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    Dan has more than 20 years of journalism experience. He has served as editor in chief of CBSNews.com, CNET News, ZDNet, PC Week, and MacWeek.

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