Republican White House candidates yesterday attacked President Obama for failing to create green jobs while distancing themselves from claims that gasoline would drop suddenly under GOP policies.
The comments came during a Republican presidential debate at the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, Calif., where many candidates also asserted that climate change is based on "unsettled science."
Just one candidate, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, defended climate research and warned that voters won't elect a Republican who ignores scientific findings.
"When you make comments that fly in the face of 98 out of 100 climate scientists, to call into question the science of evolution, all I am saying is that in order for the Republican Party to win, we can't run from science," Huntsman said. "By making comments that basically don't reflect the reality of the situation, we turn people off."
Politico's John Harris, a debate moderator, pressed Texas Gov. Rick Perry to name the scientists that he refers to on the campaign trail as credibly refuting the international consensus that humans are contributing to global warming.
Perry did not identify an expert, but argued that expensive government policies to reduce carbon emissions are unjustified.
"The fact of the matter is the science is not settled on whether or not the climate change is being impacted by man to the point where we're going to put America's economics in jeopardy," Perry said.
And Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann pointed to Obama's decision last Friday to suspend tougher ozone standards as proof that environmental regulations are being developed to fit Democrats' political agenda on climate change.
"On this issue of human activity being the cause of climate change, it's important to note the president recognized how devastating the EPA has been in their rulemaking," Bachmann said. "What we're seeing is a political agenda being advanced instead of a scientific agenda."
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney sought to undercut Obama's clean energy employment policies one day before the president will propose a jobs plan to a joint session of Congress.
"He keeps talking about green jobs. Where are they?" Romney said. "We can have real jobs. We can have energy jobs."
Romney, who in the past has both supported and opposed a regional carbon cap-and-trade program, said he wants to expand offshore oil drilling, nuclear power, natural gas development in shale and "of course renewable" energy.
The assertion aggravated clean energy groups, who are highlighting jobs in the renewable sector as one of the fastest-growing areas during the lingering recession.
Within minutes of Romney's claim, the League of Conservation Voters distributed an email rebutting the former governor. The LCV and other environmental groups point to an analysis by the Brookings Institution finding that the U.S. clean energy economy employs 2.7 million people.
Most of those workers reside in the mature aspects of the sector, like manufacturing and public services in wastewater and public transit. Although the report calls the sector "modest in size," it notes that there are more jobs in clean energy than in the fossil fuel industry.
The debate also addressed a controversial claim by Bachmann that she could lower the price of gasoline to $2 a gallon.
She did not repeat that assertion last night, although she said, "It's entirely possible for us to get back to inexpensive energy."