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February 20. 2012 9:22PM

Santorum again hits Obama on energy

STEUBENVILLE, Ohio — GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum blamed the “radical environmental policies” of the Obama administration Monday for rising gas prices, and said he would promote “responsible environmental stewardship” as President, including support for the coal industry and approval of the Keystone Pipeline.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” he told a cheering crowd of several hundred in this once-booming steel town, “we need someone who understands, who comes from the coal fields, who comes from the steel mills, who understands what ordinary working people in American need to provide for themselves and their families.”

Santorum grew up not far away, in the coal and steel country of western Pennsylvania, and often tells the story of how his grandfather came from Italy to work in the coal fields. As he introduced his wife, his in-laws and three of his seven children to the throng, he said, “It's great to be back home.”

Although Obama has disappointed many in the environmental movement, and has expressed support for the controversial practice of hydraulic “fracking” for oil in shale rock, Santorum has been going after him in recent days for being a “radical environmentalist,” especially over the president's decision to postpone approval of the Keystone Pipeline from Canada.

Two days ago, Santorum was quoted as saying that Obama adheres to “some phony theology,” remarks that were interpreted by some as an attack on the president's faith. Santorum has since explained that he was referring to Obama's views on the environment, which, he said, put more importance on the earth than on humanity.

He repeated that Monday, and criticized the Obama administration for recently imposing new environmental regulations on coal-fired power plants, causing some to close. He said the administration's actions were based on “phony studies” and “a lack of scientific evidence.” He added: “I refer to global warming as not climate science, but political science.”

That line brought lusty cheers from the crowd, packed into a large banquet hall in a downtown restaurant.

Among them was Linda Kessler, a 62-year-old retired bus driver who recently signed an oil and gas lease to allow fracking on her family's land. She said she could never vote for Obama, in part because of his energy policies. Of Santorum, she said, “He's the one I like so far.”


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