Newt Gingrich’s “Solutions” for America’s Energy Woes: Drill, Baby, Drill!

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If anybody deserves credit for almost single-handedly revitalizing the once defunct movement for offshore oil drilling, it’s former Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.

After spending a few years wandering the political desert, salvaging his tarnished reputation and peddling his views on various conservative outlets, Gingrich made a political comeback of sorts when he founded American Solutions for Winning the Future, a supposedly non-partisan (or, in his words, “tri-partisan”) 527 group, in late 2007. While its mission is ostensibly to propose solutions for America’s most vexing issues by encouraging multi-sectoral grassroots engagement, the organization has largely come to be defined by its aggressive promotion of offshore drilling – a politically astute position that has helped it raise $13.1 million, according to a new investigative report published by the Center for Public Integrity.

Despite claims to the contrary, Gingrich has taken a highly partisan approach to running American Solutions, launching its “Drill here. Drill now. Pay less” campaign only a month before McCain called for the lifting of the ban on federal offshore drilling and going so far as to openly state his desire to do everything in his power to, “be helpful to the McCain campaign.” John McCain himself began to adopt the “Drill Now” slogan while on the campaign trail this summer, much to Gingrich’s delight, culminating in the loud “Drill, baby, drill!” cheers that erupted during the Republican convention.

The group is being underwritten by seven of McCain’s top fundraisers, including billionaire mogul Sheldon Adelson and American Financial Group CEO Carl Lindner. While it claims to be a grassroots-based organization, it has raised over $8.9 million, or 68 percent of its total funding, from 40 large donors. To avoid being subjected to stringent campaign finance laws, the group has refrained from formally endorsing John McCain’s candidacy though Gingrich has made no bones about his support for the Senator from Arizona.

As Joe Romm and others have noted, Gingrich has unfairly earned a reputation for being an environmental “moderate,” reaping praise from Slate and The Washington Post, which credited him for adopting a mainstream, bipartisan approach to environmentalism, and getting a starring role in a high-profile ad for Al Gore’s Alliance for Climate Protection.

Brad Johnson from Wonk Room reported on Friday that Gingrich was readying the next phase of American Solutions’ offshore drilling push, which include a new book – creatively titled “Drill Here. Drill Now. Pay Less” – published by right-wing imprimatur Regnery and “We Have the Power,” a movie created by his wife that will be distributed by the right-wing organization Citizens United. Gingrich’s devotion to the cause has already yielded substantial dividends: According to a recent CNN/Opinion Research poll, 74 percent of the electorate now supports offshore drilling – this despite the fact that even the Bush administration’s Energy Information Agency has admitted that the impact of drilling on oil prices would be insignificant.

Displaying his unique brand of “bipartisanship,” Gingrich has strenuously opposed all efforts to hash out a compromise deal on drilling, which would’ve opened up some offshore areas to drilling in exchange for guaranteeing the extension of renewable tax credits, lambasting the deal as “an $85 billion tax increase disguised as an energy bill” in a column for Human Events.Despite his protestations, the compromise bill may come up for a vote in the Congress as early as this Thursday.)

While it remains to be seen whether Gingrich’s latest ploy will prove successful, and whether it will carry McCain and Sarah Palin, his protégé, past the presidential finishing line, you can bet his name will come up again – if not this election cycle, then next year and, quite possibly, in 2012.

Editor’s note: this is Jeremy Jacquot first post for DeSmogBlog, please read DeSmogBlog welcomes Jeremy Jacquot.

 

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