WARRENVILLE — Newt Gingrich began his appearance in Warrenville by blasting President Obama and his rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline project as a “stunningly stupid” decision that would cost America jobs.
The statement brought applause and jeers from a standing-room-only crowd at Bobby’s Bar-B-Q, who had gathered to hear the Republican presidential candidate as he was trying to make gains on front-runner Mitt Romney before Saturday’s South Carolina GOP Primary.
Obama said Wednesday he was denying the application for a Canada-to-Texas oil pipeline because a GOP-mandated deadline didn’t allow time for a full review. The president says his decision isn’t a judgment on the merits of the proposed $7 billion pipeline, according to The Associated Press. Rather, he’s citing the “arbitrary nature” of the deadline that was set by a GOP-written provision in a recent tax bill that Obama signed. The president says in a statement that he’s disappointed that Republicans in Congress forced the decision.
Administration officials says the looming deadline cut short the time needed to conduct environmental reviews after the State Department ordered the project developer to find an alternate route to avoid environmentally sensitive areas of Nebraska.
The 1,700-mile pipeline would carry oil from tar sands in western Canada to refineries in Texas. It would pass through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma.
Gingrich didn’t mention the deadline, but used the president’s decision to score points with the Aiken County crowd and tout his ideas on national energy policy and fixing the nation’s lagging economy.
The former House speaker said the decision was “stupid” in three ways: it would eliminate “20,000 to 50,000 construction jobs,”; it hurts the nation’s energy security by perpetuating the reliance on foreign oil; and it would force the Canadian government to make a deal with China in order to export its oil.
Gingrich said Congress should take the administration “head on” on this issue to reverse the decision and force approval of the project.
“If ever there was a time we need an American energy policy to get us free of this muddle, it is now,” Gingrich said.
Gingrich reiterated his statements that South Carolina’s coastal waters should be opened for off-shore drilling of natural gas and referred to a bill sponsored by two Democrats, U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Jim Webb, that would open waters off Virginia to gas and oil exploration in 2012 as a model of bipartisan cooperation.
Gingrich said he has been urging congressional leaders to pass the bill and send it to the president’s desk for his signature before the November election and defy him not to sign it.
“The folks in Washington don’t get it,” Gingrich said. “Lot’s of people there know how to make speeches, but you have to be able to get something done.”
The message rang true for Damon Comparetta, a former Marine who now owns an aerial photography company. Comparetta said he had been undecided but was ready to get behind someone like Gingrich, who he expects could make things happen.
He believes so little seems to get accomplished in Washington because of a lack of leadership from the president.
“Everybody thought Obama was going to be a uniter,” Comparetta said. “But I think he is one of the most divisive presidents ever.”
Associated Press reports were used in this article.