Gingrich stakes campaign on energy issue

Republican presidential candidate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich speaks at a debate watching party Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2012 in Scottsdale, Ariz. AP Photo/Evan Vucci

House Speaker Newt Gingrich
AP Photo/Evan Vucci

BURLINGAME, Calif. - Hoping he's found an issue that will propel him back into the top tier in the Republican primary contest, Newt Gingrich on Saturday called President Obama's recent remarks on energy "factually false, intellectually incoherent, deeply conflicted on policy and in some places just strange." I

A former college professor, Gingrich devoted 45 minutes to a speech intended to stake out political ground on the issue of sky-high gas prices. Speaking at California's Republican Convention, Gingrich set out to rebut the president's energy proposals point by point, sometimes reading from notes, a rarity for him.

"He says quote, 'High gas prices are like a tax right out of your paycheck,'" Gingrich told the luncheon crowd. "So you can think of gasoline prices when you go fill up your car as the Obama tax. This is the new Obama tax right out of your pocketbook. I'm just quoting the president's own words."

But in some areas, Gingrich and Obama's plans are quite similar. On his website, Gingrich promises to maximize energy production from several sources, including oil, natural gas, wind, biofuels, nuclear power, and clean coal. Obama, speaking to a crowd at the University of Miami on Thursday, described an "all-of-the-above" approach that includes an expansion of domestic energy production, more focus on alternative energy sources, and stricter fuel efficiency standards.

In his remarks, Gingrich acknowledged that he agreed with some of the president's proposals. But he professed skepticism that Obama is serious about this energy plan. "(Obama says) we do have in this country limitless sources of energy," he said. "If he believes that, why doesn't he unleash the American people to develop the limitless sources of energy that he claims we have?"

Gingrich scoffed at Obama's claim that domestic oil production has increased during his time in office, saying this was only true because of private development on land in North Dakota. The former speaker has promised to open up drilling on federal lands, where he says production has decreased by 11% under Obama.

He also took issue with the Obama claim that there are "no quick fixes" to the energy problem. Gingrich said Obama could free up 2.3 million barrels of oil a day by signing orders that would approve the Keystone pipeline, which would bring oil from Canada, allow drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, and expand energy development in Alaska.

Gingrich was flanked on stage by supporters, several of whom carried a new sign the campaign made for the event that showed an image of a gas pump with a listed price of $2.50 a gallon. Gingrich pledges to bring gas prices down to between $2 and $2.50 a gallon.

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