By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

Rick Perry’s solution to building a more energy efficient and secure America would be to drill for everything, virtually everywhere.

As if he’d just emerged from a summit in the 1950s, Perry declared on Friday that the U.S. can solve its unemployment and energy issues by expanding the oil, gas and coal industries.

That’s right, coal, too.

The U.S., with 25 percent of the world’s supplies, is the “Saudi Arabia of coal,” Texas Gov. Perry enthused.

Trumpeting these three ways the nation can kick the climate issue down the road, Perry said he’d keep the U.S. sucking oil and gas by opening more public lands (national parks), the Gulf of Mexico and the Alaskan arctic to oil drillers.

These fossil fuel opportunities would create 1.2 million U.S. jobs, and he’d clear their way by removing EPA and other federal regulations that affect these businesses, Perry said in his first major policy address as a presidential candidate at the U.S. Steel Mon Valley Works Plant in West Mifflin, Pa.

“We’re sitting on a treasure trove of energy in this country,” Perry said later on CNBC. “There’s 300 years worth of reserves underneath the land of America and that’s how we’re going to get America working again.”

It seems as obvious as the smoke plumes in the sky that Perry is gunning for support from the wealthy oil and gas industries that are conveniently concentrated in Texas, while also pandering to the Tea Party base that has supported drilling in the past and fervently wants to blame federal regulation for the nation’s economic slump.

And it’s possible that Perry really believes what he’s saying, that nurturing these polluting, finite fuels will solve U.S. employment issues. But just saying it’s so, doesn’t necessarily make it that way.

Here’s where Perry snags his cowboy boots on the barbed wire:

The U.S. produces consumes around 19 million barrels of oil every day, more than any other nation in the world, and produces only about half of that itself.  Domestic oil production as been declining for several years, and as almost anyone who reads the news knows, we depend on oil from the Middle East, Africa, Canada, Mexico and a few other places for at least half of our oil.

To shift the ratio back in our favor again will involve a new generation of domestic oil that will involve costly and polluting maneuvers like scraping tar sands, fracking rock formations, drilling in fragile and harsh arctic settings or deep waters, miles below the surface like the Deepwater Horizon well that worked out so nicely for BP.

The problem isn’t the big boot of federal regulation, it’s reality.

You can talk big and swagger all ya want, but you cannot drill your way back to the 1950s — not easily. There may be oil companies that want to try, but the public desire to go along for that ride is already fading, as is the oil itself. Polls show Americans want out of the wars in the Middle East, and that they want clean air and water, both of which are increasingly at odds with fossil fuel activities. Americans also tell pollsters they favor wind power, solar power and they like the idea of electric cars. Sure these technologies need time to take up the slack, but the evolution’s well underway.

As for this whole “Saudi Arabia of Coal” business, it would be quite a chuckle if it didn’t involve the most toxic enterprise around, which emits carbon and mercury into the air and continues to ruin towns and lungs in Appalachia and across the U.S..

Did Perry just get his fossil fuels crossed, and mean to say we’re the Saudi Arabia of natural gas, which has been a phrase thrown around liberally this past year in reference to the supposed explosive volumes of natural gas sitting under New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas and a few other places? That gas is all there for the taking, if we’ll just get fracking and quit worrying about contaminated water wells and benzene emissions.

Or did Perry really mean to apply this boast to coal, the single biggest contributor to the greenhouse gas emissions that are warming the planet at an alarming rate?

Maybe he meant that if we keep burning coal we’ll turn into Saudi Arabia, a desertifying oligarchy stuck in the mid-20th Century?

Hard to say.

One can only wish he were making such gutsy assertions about the renewable energy sources that could really dig us out of the ditch, producing jobs, curbing toxic air pollution and making the U.S. competitive with the rest of the world.

Take wind power. Texas leads the nation in the generation of wind energy, and that has put cities like Houston, Dallas and Austin in the spotlight for their use of this renewable, no-emissions solution. It’s shocking that Perry fails to make this the center of his economic plan.

Wind harnessed in West Texas has enabled thousands of Texans living in urban areas, myself included, to buy clean, all-wind power plans at our homes.

The wind industry also produces jobs. Some 85,000 people work in wind-related businesses in the U.S.,  and 100,000 Americans work in solar power, according to industry associations. These renewables anchor a clean energy sector that’s certain to outlast and outperform fossil fuels over time.

The wind energy industry, which is so strong in Texas, was proudly built up by Americans, based in the American heartland, using private capital and federal tax credits.

Oh, those tax credits. Perry said Friday he’d like to phase those out.

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