Rick Santorum’s quest for the White House means socially conservative Republicans will have a candidate in the race they can be comfortable with. Santorum’s candidacy is likely to focus on his consistently conservative voting record during his 12 years as a U.S. senator and four years as a U.S. representative. But for environmentally minded voters, Santorum’s record in Washington is less comforting. Santorum has consistently voted to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), has opposed legislation to increase renewable energy and clean air regulations. Santorum is nothing if not consistent — the question is whether or not you agree with him.
Before it was fashionable for Republicans to deny the science supporting the existence of man-caused climate change, Santorum pushed the issue. In his failed re-election bid for the Senate in 2006, Santorum said, "scientists have not decisively concluded" that global warming exists, and that government should react cautiously to calls for mandatory reductions in greenhouse gases. After making these statements, Santorum’s opponent, Democrat Bob Casey, said he had doubts in the science behind climate change. Casey won the election, though if the election had been held in 2010, Santorum may have won based on the huge number of climate change deniers who were elected to seats during that cycle.
The smokestack rule
Santorum has often rubbed environmentalists the wrong way, but he drew the most criticism in 2005 when he supported what has become known as the “smokestack rule.” With Santorum’s help, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Bush administration rolled back limitations on the amount of mercury that can be emitted from coal and oil power plants in the United States. Gone was a plan to limit smokestack emissions through the use of a two-phased program to take place over five years. Gone was a 38-ton cap on mercury emissions by 2010. And gone was the final phase of the plan, which called for a final cap of 15 tons of mercury emissions from smokestacks in 2018. Santorum’s support for this plan, and the totality of his record, earned him a score of zero from the League of Conservation Voters in 2006. The organization said defeating him in 2006 was a “top priority.”
Time and again Santorum has voted to allow for drilling in ANWR. In 2000, Santorum voted to preserve the language in the 2001 Budget Framework that would have allocated $1.2 billion for oil exploration in ANWR. Two years later, Santorum supported a plan by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) that contained a provision to open up ANWR to drilling at President George W. Bush’s discretion. In 2003, Santorum tried to block Democrats from removing pro-drilling language in the federal budget. In 2005, Santorum got one more crack at ANWR, when he voted no on a bill that would have blocked an oil-leasing program in ANWR.
Santorum’s leanings on drilling aren’t just about Alaska. In 2003, the Pennsylvania Republican threw his support behind what had become known as the “Bush Energy Bill.” Essentially, the Energy Policy Act of 2003 contained $15 billion of tax breaks for energy companies. The bill also attempted to direct the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to create new fuel standards for car companies.
Before leaving the Senate, Santorum was a champion of the Gulf of Mexico Security Act. The bill, which became law, opened up 8.3 million acres of the Gulf to oil and gas drilling. After the Senate passed the bill, Santorum said, “This bipartisan bill will help us lower gas prices and heating and cooling bills for American families and secure our energy independence. This bill will reduce our dependence on unstable foreign sources of oil and increase American natural gas and oil supply.” The Gulf has since been opened up to drilling, gas prices have not decreased and a massive oil spill in 2010 sparked outcries to overhaul the regulatory process that oversees offshore drilling.
While Santorum has been a champion of increasing drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska, he has not been a fan of renewable energy sources. In 1999, Santorum joined forces with now retired Sen. Jim Jeffords (I-Vt.) to strip the Energy Department’s budget of $62 million tagged for solar and renewable projects.
Despite Santorum’s consistent calls for U.S. energy independence, when the vote came to reduce our dependence on foreign imports by 40 percent by 2025, Santorum voted no. The 2005 amendment aimed to reduce America's foreign oil imports by 7.6 million barrels a day. The same amendment called for a sharp increase in mileage standards for cars and trucks.
Santorum threw his support behind a plan to boost hydrogen-powered cars by 2010. The bill called for “the Department of Energy to set targets and timelines to maintain the production of 100,000 hydrogen-powered vehicles by 2010, and 2.5 million vehicles annually by 2020. It also would call for the department to set targets for the sale of hydrogen at fueling stations.”
By the time 2006 rolled around, Santorum was touting alternative energy sources in his home state, but not renewables. A release from his 2006 campaign said: “Senator Santorum championed the nation's first coal-to-liquid fuel plant, which will be located in Pennsylvania."
When it comes to the touchy subject of corn ethanol subsidies, Santorum has said he’s against the subsidies but in favor of the government helping filling stations outfit themselves with biofuel equipment.
Santorum's votes have generally been consistent, and so have his ideologies.
Also on MNN:
- Tim Pawlenty's environmental record
- Newt Gingrich's environmental record
- Mitt Romney's environmental record