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Santorum vs. Romney: The Climate Is Screwed Either Way

By Lisa Hymas

05 January, 2012

Rick Santorum, who surged at the last minute to give Mitt Romney a real run for his money in Tuesday's Iowa caucuses, is less green than his rival, and decidedly nuttier when it comes to climate change. But let's not split hairs here. Both men will staunchly defend fossil fuels, and neither is likely to do much of anything to fight global warming.

Mitt Romney has expressed qualified concern about climate change over the years, and then vacillated about how much of it is human-caused and whether we should try to do anything about it.

No wobbling of that sort from Santorum -- he's an out-and-out denier. "There is no such thing as global warming," he told a smiling Glenn Beck on Fox News in June 2011. That same month, he told Rush Limbaugh that climate change is a liberal conspiracy: "It's just an excuse for more government control of your life and I've never been for any scheme or even accepted the junk science behind the whole narrative."

Santorum made a point of announcing his presidential candidacy this spring near the coalfields where his grandfather worked -- so that's your first clue as to how he feels about the dirtiest of all fossil fuels. During his 16 years as a member of Congress and then senator from Pennsylvania, Santorum was a big coal booster -- and he's continued to play that role even after his defeat in a 2006 Senate race.

In 2003, he supported a Bush EPA rule that allowed dirty, old coal-fired power plants, refineries, and industrial facilities to modernize without adding new pollution controls. Just this week, he bashed the Obama EPA for restricting mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants, ignoring the fact that the new rules will save thousands of lives and prevent developmental problems, learning disabilities, respiratory diseases, and heart attacks. Santorum accused the EPA of acting on a philosophy of "We hate carbon, we hate fossil fuels, we hate blue-collar Americans who work in those areas."

But Santorum's an equal-opportunity fossil-fuel lover. "Drill everywhere" is his philosophy when it comes to oil, he told Beck. (Romney, by contrast, seems to have merely a drill-almost-everywhere philosophy, as he would exempt the Florida Everglades.)

Santorum doesn't see what the big fuss is about the proposed Keystone XL pipeline traversing the Ogallala Aquifer. "Has anybody looked at the number of pipelines that go through that aquifer now? I mean, you can't even see the aquifer if you look at a schematic of how many pipelines are there," he told Iowans at a Dec. 31 rally. Opposition to the pipeline is just "pandering to radical environmentalists who don't want energy production, who don't want us to burn more carbon," he continued. "... It has to do with an ideology, a religion of its own that's being pushed on the American public."

Santorum likes natural gas and fracking too, as he often emphasizes in stump speeches. "You know what the Marcellus Shale is?" he asked during a campaign stop in Iowa in July. "It's the largest natural gas found in the history of the country, the second largest natural gas field in the world! It's under Pennsylvania, and we are drilling, baby, drilling. Everywhere."

It so happens that Santorum has a well-paid consulting deal for Consol Energy, a big coal-mining and fracking company, but he was a dirty-energy shill long before he got that gig.

Ron Paul finished a strong third in Iowa, but there's no hope for the environment in that showing. Paul is just about as wacky on climate change as Santorum.

Lisa Hymas is senior editor at Grist. You can follow her on Twitter and Google+




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