Midland, Texas — Standing in front of two active oil rigs, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis unveiled an energy plan powered by the reduction of federal regulations in order to boost domestic fossil fuel production, and push the price of gas down to $2 per gallon in 2025.
"I will ensure that the United States of America is the dominant energy producer in the entire world," DeSantis said Wednesday morning. "I will ensure that this country does not have to rely on hostile nations for its energy needs ever again."
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the last time gas was $2 per gallon was in the late spring of 2020, during Donald Trump's presidency and the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, when many businesses were shuttered and Americans were housebound.
DeSantis says he would withdraw the U.S. from any "net zero" climate commitments — including the Paris climate accord — a global agreement focused on lowering greenhouse gas emissions that President Biden rejoined on his first day as president, after Trump had withdrawn from it.
The Florida governor acknowledges that the climate "clearly" has changed, and he pointed to his own state's use of solar power as a part of its energy mix. But he also thinks that the fear of an "environmental catastrophe" fueled by climate change is overblown, and said human beings are "safer than ever from climate disasters."
According to the World Meteorological Organization, climate disasters have increased by five times in the past 50 years, but due to weather forecasting and improved management, the number of deaths from these disasters has significantly decreased.
"When Joe Biden says that he's more worried in 10 years with the climate than a nuclear war… I'm sorry, that's just not true," DeSantis said, in reference to Mr. Biden's press conference in Vietnam earlier this month. "It would be better if people you know, who were concerned, were a little more realistic [about climate change]."
DeSantis would also take steps likely to slow the nation's transition to electric cars, vowing to repeal federal tax credits and subsidies in the Inflation Reduction Act related to electric vehicles and their infrastructure.
DeSantis said "saving the American automobile" is a priority. He called electric vehicles expensive and "undesirable for many Americans," but at the same time, he supports increasing the mining of minerals in the U.S. that are needed for electric vehicle batteries.
As Florida governor, DeSantis approved mandates and subsidies for electric vehicles charging stations, and specifically $60 million awarded to 13 counties to purchase electric transit buses. He said that money came from a settlement with Volkswagen after the automaker had violated the Environmental Protection Agency's emission standards.
"There's also no conflict in saying that if people want to buy those vehicles, by all means, they can buy the vehicles. They now have more infrastructure in Florida to do it, but mandating it and shoehorning everybody in there, that's not anything I've ever supported," he told reporters.
DeSantis said it was "unacceptable" to have grid failures in the 21st century, a reference to the 2021 power grid failures in Texas due to cold weather and the fact that it has the only standalone power grid in the country. He said energy security "is a matter of our national security."
His plan would prioritize what he called "reliable" energy sources such as natural gas, coal, nuclear power and hydropower. A Federal Energy Regulatory Commissionthat a majority of the power generation failures in Texas in 2021 were due to issues with natural gas units.
DeSantis' visit on Wednesday marked his second policy event announcement in Texas, a Super-Tuesday state where a super PAC backing him launched,its door-knocking outreach. With a campaign finance deadline for the quarter approaching, DeSantis has also scheduled a week full of private fundraisers across the state in Houston, Tyler, Dallas, Waco and San Antonio, according to a schedule of his fundraising calendar obtained by CBS News.
Ernest Angelo Jr., a former mayor of Midland, Texas, who supports DeSantis' campaign, said Trump's indictments and the "constant media coverage" he receives from them create "a very difficult situation [for DeSantis] to compete with."
"But I think the governor's doing a great job of doing that given the circumstances," he said, praising DeSantis' focus on the early states and adding he has to do "very well in Iowa."
Angelo noted it's important for DeSantis to keep raising money at a high clip, and said there's "huge financial support" for him in the state.
Matt Mackowiak, a Republican consultant based in Austin, Texas, called the delegate-rich state "an ATM machine" for GOP candidates.
"It is a show of strength to come into Texas and do those events in those markets and raise a million dollars in three days or whatever their goal is," he said about DeSantis. "It shows he's going to be in this thing. He's not going anywhere."
Texas voters who came out on Wednesday supported DeSantis and his energy plan, though some said they remain undecided for their vote.
Jennifer Woodall said she's choosing between DeSantis or Trump, but said DeSantis' early focus on oil and gas do help his chances.
Small business owner Mark Matta said while he really liked DeSantis' energy policy plan, he's still undecided on who he'll vote for in the Republican race.
"Right now, it's too early. There's still a lot of great candidates out there. But I do like what he had to say this morning," he said, adding that Trump, South Carolina Senator Tim Scott and Biotech Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy were on his radar.
"This is Trump country," Matta said, praising his actions on oil and gas and how they "ring loudly" with the community. "He's a big force to be reckoned with here."
The Texas Oil & Gas Association announced its endorsement of Trump over DeSantis on Wednesday afternoon, according to the Daily Mail.
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