Five of America’s top Republican presidential candidates sat down in Iowa this week to discuss their visions for revitalizing a key American business sector. In a Republican forum hosted by the National Association of Manufacturers, each candidate focused heavily on the benefits of domestic energy production – particularly in rural America.
Gov. Rick Perry, R-Texas: “When you look and see what has happened in North Dakota, Terry, when you see what has happened in the Marcellus Shale up in Pennsylvania and places in Texas where they have opened up these new shale plays, get our coal industry back. This President of the United States, he's at war against the coal industry so getting Americans to work almost immediately is my goal.”
Rick Santorum, Former Pennsylvania Senator: “Governor Perry mentioned Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania is the second largest natural gas field in the world. When I was in the United States Senate six years ago natural gas prices were $12. They are $3.60. So, when the President says, well, we can't drill our way to lower prices, yes we can, we just did and we can do so in oil with respect to ANWAR and offshore. We need to create more jobs in this country through energy and we have lower energy prices.”
Newt Gingrich, Former Speaker of the House: “Here in Iowa 20% of the electricity comes from wind. I voted for gasohol in 1984. I voted when Ronald Reagan signed it and we did it deliberately. We decided that it was better for money to go to Iowa than to Iran, better for money to go to South Dakota than Saudi Arabia.
But many candidates sitting amidst construction and agricultural equipment at the Vermeer Corporation in Pella, Iowa, lobbied against federal incentives and tax credits for renewable energy largely on the basis of a smaller federal government.
Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minnesota: “What I would like to do is a reexamination of those credits because quite frankly I'd like to pull them back and let these industries be more self-supporting and stand on their own. I want to pull the regulatory burden back and then I don't think that we'll need the level of subsidies that we have in the past.”
Tom Hudson, Nightly Business Report: “That include ethanol?”
Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minnesota: “That includes all energy.”
Gov. Rick Perry, R-Texas: “If states want to compete against each other by putting those types of standards, those types of incentives in place that is a correct and a proper way for the state. But at the federal level I do not believe that the bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. ought to be picking winners and losers in the energy industry or for that matter in any other industry.”
Rick Santorum, Former Pennsylvania Senator: “I don't think we should create a heart attack for any industry but we should phase them out over a period of time. I have suggested five years for ethanol and some of these other credits. Let's phase them out, let's get to a -- and I'm talking about not just ethanol but I'm talking about gas, oil, there aren't any tax credits for coal, they just beat the heck out of coal.”
One noticeable exception to the anti-support rhetoric was offered by former House speaker Newt Gingrich, historically a staunch defender of domestic renewable energy and the wind industry’s tax incentives.
Newt Gingrich, Former Speaker of the House: “If you're going to have a tax credit frankly it ought to be at least for ten years because you want a long enough time and the people make capital investments. When Congress passes one year and two year tax credits it is a tremendously inefficient way to subsidize something because you never get any capital investment and any momentum because you have no planning horizon.”
Trade policy also was a strong talking point among Republican candidates and an audience full of manufacturers searching for new and growing markets.
Tom Hudson, Nightly Business Report: “Congressman, America sold almost $300 million worth of corn to China last year which was a five fold increase from the year before. Last year American manufacturers like Vermeer sold $6 billion of farm equipment worldwide. Vermeer just signed its biggest customer deal ever yesterday and it is all export. How would you open up more international markets for American manufacturers?”
Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas: “It sounds like we're doing pretty good with China. Well, what you have to do is be more competitive and we're less competitive to be the world producer because we have too much taxes, too much regulation. But it is also involved with the monetary system. When the country becomes the issuer of the reserve currency of the world unfortunately the biggest export is money. So, there's a temptation to buy from overseas, increase your current account deficit and then we go to consumption. That is our disease.”
Newt Gingrich, Former Speaker of the House: “I'd like to look around the country, I'm not normally pro-trial lawyer, but I would like to look around the country and find the toughest, most energetic trial lawyer in America, make them a U.S. trade representative and tell them their job is to go out and kick in doors for the United States every day and the more doors they kick in the happier we're going to be.”
As Republican candidates continue to barnstorm the early presidential nominating states, only two months remain until the first votes are cast in the Iowa caucuses on January 3rd.