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Newt Gingrich Looks to Bounce Back By Focusing on Gas Prices

February 14, 2012 - 6:00pm

Sinking in the polls at both the national level and in states that will soon hold primaries, Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich tried to rally conservatives on Wednesday by pushing his plan to reduce energy and gas costs for Americans.

Gingrich insisted to supporters that his plan could return gas prices to $2.50 a gallon and he ripped into President Barack Obamas record on the issue.

During the four years I was speaker, the average price for a gallon of gasoline was $1.13, Gingrich noted in a message to supporters on Wednesday. When President Barack Obama took office in January 2009, the average price nationwide was $1.89 a gallon. Three years into the Obama presidency, the average is $3.47 a gallon.

Gingrich took aim at Obama for blocking the Keysone XL oil pipeline from Canada.

While some of the increase in gas prices comes from growing demand, the demand pressures on price can and should be offset by increasing domestic supplies, Gingrich continued.

Yet the Obama administration's ideological refusal to expand American energy production continues to block the development of resources which could lower prices dramatically. As we saw most recently with the administration's rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline, the president is more interested in playing favorites with environmental extremists rather than embracing the all-of-the-above strategy that could achieve energy independence and help all Americans now.

Gingrich called for more offshore drilling and working with Canada and Mexico to bringmore oil into the United States. He also pledged, if elected, to get the federal government out of the way for energy exploration.

By unleashing the American people from regulations and bureaucracy designed to promote the agenda of radical environmentalists, we can tap our enormous oil and natural gas supplies to drive fuel prices down, Gingrich insisted. The potential to increase American oil and gas supplies dramatically and become energy secure and independent is real. Increasing oil supplies will lower fuel prices significantly. And the biggest thing standing in the way is government obstruction.

Gingrich also wrote that opening federal lands to energy exploration could lead to dramatic developments in the marketplace.

The federal government owns most of the world's oil shale reserves, located in the Green River Basin in Utah, Colorado and Wyoming, Gingrich maintained. This immense source of future oil supply is being held off-limits to leasing by Obama's Bureau of Land Management. Recoverable U.S. oil shale reserves are estimated to approach, if not exceed, 1 trillion barrels of American oil.

A stunningly small percentage of the enormous federal land, which is owned by the American people, is available for energy exploration that could yield new discoveries, Gingrich continued. Eighty-six percent of Nevada is owned by the federal government. That is almost 40 percent the area of Texas. If these lands were properly marketed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, opening even half this promising acreage to exploration, we'd add an area a fifth the size of Texas for oil and gas prospecting."

Gingrich slammed the Obama administration, insisting it frequently demonizes energy companies for political purposes and advocates new taxes and fees on producers while shutting off paths to energy exploration.

The former congressional leader called for backing the Keystone XL pipeline, replacing the EPA with a new, economically rational Environmental Solutions Agency, slashing regulations to build new refineries, ending the capital gains and death taxes, and reforming the federal Department of the Interior. He insisted this agenda would lower gas prices.

Gas at $2.50 a gallon is not a dream, Gingrich insisted. It's achievable with the right policies. If we take these steps, we can quickly and dramatically reduce the price of gas by tapping America's incredible oil and gas resources to increase supply. That would mean more money in Americans' pockets, lower costs for millions of businesses and tens of thousands of jobs across the country in an industry poised to take off."

Gingrich took one last shot at Obama.

It should tell you everything you need to know about the president and his administration that they want to double-down with giant bets on green startup companies like Solyndra while refusing to take the simple steps required to unleash American energy production to help millions of Americans now, Gingrich insisted.

Gingrich also looked to reach out to social conservatives, even as polls show they are increasingly backing Rick Santorum, who has leapt past the other Republican hopefuls in the polls.

Conservatives propelled Gingrich to win the South Carolina primary last month but, since then, he has suffered a series of defeats, losing in Florida, Maine and Nevada to Mitt Romney and losing in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri to Santorum. While Gingrich was hammered by Romney before Florida, the former governor of Massachusetts has increasingly turned his fire to Santorum.

According to polls released this week, Gingrich has been losing conservatives to Santorum.

According to a national Rasmussen Reports poll of likely primary voters released on Wednesday, Santorum takes 39 percent, while Romney stands in second with 27 percent. Gingrich stands in third with 15 percent while Ron Paul lags in fourth with 10 percent. Three percent back other candidates, while 6 percent are undecided. With 32 percent of Republican primary voters identifying themselves as members of the tea party movement, Santorum is the clear favorite among them -- taking 53 percent.

With Santorums rise in the polls, Gingrich has clearly been hurt. A Rasmussen poll taken early last week had Romney ahead with 34 percent, followed by Gingrich with 27 percent, Santorum with 18 percent and Paul with 11 percent.

Looking to turn things around, Gingrich launched his Faith Leaders Dream Team on Wednesday which includes some prominent names, including former U.S. Rep. J.C. Watts, R-Okla., Christian writers Tim and Beverly LaHaye and actor Chuck Norris.

When you consider where we are today, and you think about the good old days of balanced budgets, entitlement reform, and paying down our national debt, getting tax relief, as a Republican majority, Newt Gingrich was the speaker. We haven't seen things like that in the last 13 years," Watts said. I am looking for somebody that will be willing to do the heavy lifting to get us to where we all want to be as a nation, and I think Newt fits that profile.

Reach Kevin Derby at or at (850) 727-0859.

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