MIDLAND, Texas—Ron DeSantis pledged to return the United States to energy independence and dominance by again giving federal support to the oil and gas industry, and reversing the Biden administration's preoccupation with electric vehicles.
In a wide-ranging campaign speech on Sept. 20 in Midland, a West Texas oil industry hub, the Florida governor rolled out a platform supporting not only energy sources like oil, gas, and nuclear but addressing other natural resource issues, including critical minerals, federal water policy, and forest management.
"Our self-imposed handcuffs on oil, gas, and critical mineral extraction will be removed," said Mr. DeSantis, who's seeking the Republican nomination for president.
"The days of rolling blackouts and unreliable grids will be finished."
He wants to get gas prices down to $2 a gallon again.
DeSantis spoke against the backdrop of Oil Rig 466, a drilling rig operated by Oklahoma-based contractors Helmerich and Payne.
Dan Breeding, an employee of Permian Deep Rock, told The Epoch Times the company controls the mineral rights on the land.
Mr. DeSantis tied the Biden administration's anti-oil policies to American decline, a campaign theme, and pledged to reverse it. He spoke over the roar of drilling machinery to an audience of oil workers and journalists.
"Joe Biden has waged war on domestic energy production," he said. "He's made it a central goal of his administration to restrict investment, production, and transportation of reliable energy sources."
President Biden's cancellation of the Keystone XL Pipeline cost $10 billion in economic benefits and 59,000 jobs and made energy more expensive for every family, Mr. DeSantis said.
President Biden's policies supporting electric vehicles (EVs) and trying to phase out those running on gas and diesel favor Beijing, Mr. DeSantis said.
China produces 60 percent of the world's EV batteries and controls 85 percent of the processing of the rare earth minerals EVs require, he said.
"We could do something about that. Joe Biden is slamming the door to that."
"Even as he puts the kibosh on us being able to develop those key resources, he's trying to mandate that most of our new cars are electric vehicles by the year 2032, even though these vehicles are more expensive for Americans and they're undesirable for many Americans."
He tied energy production and prices to many things affecting everyday life.
It raises the costs of plastics, present in countless products people buy, he said.
Higher gas prices alone during the Biden administration have cost the average family $2200 a year, Mr. DeSantis stated, and Biden-era inflation has cost them generally $7400 a year.
"I will be a pro-energy American president because I'm pro-civilization. I'm pro-development. I'm pro-individual, and I'm pro-environment," he said.
"High energy prices are the enemy of the poor. Energy goes into nearly everything bought and sold in the economy. So higher price and higher energy cost translate to higher prices all across the board."
Mr. DeSantis claimed green energy subsidies in Biden's Inflation Reduction Act haven't reduced emissions.
More than 60 percent of $110 billion in subsidies have gone to foreign companies, including $8 billion for companies with strong ties to China, he said.
He ended on an upbeat note.
"I'm optimistic because, as a nation, we're blessed with everything we need. We have the people, we have the natural resources, and we have the Constitution and the ideals on which we were founded.
"The only question is whether we will have the will to get it done. We need to have the will to reject the ruling class's agenda.
"And we need to make Washington work for the American people once again. So we will choose Midland over Moscow. We will choose the Marcellus over the mullahs. And we'll choose the Bakken over Beijing."
The Marcellus Shale is a large natural gas formation underlying Pennsylvania and New York. The oil-rich Bakken Formation underlies North Dakota, Montana, and Canadian provinces north of them.
After his speech, he addressed questions from reporters about climate change by acknowledging it exists but that the question was what the best policies are.
Increasing gas production and exporting it to developing countries can help them significantly reduce emissions, and lowering their energy costs can decrease poverty significantly, he said.
The city of Midland was an appropriate place to discuss support for oil production. Oil was discovered there, a significant find called the Permian Basin, precisely a century ago in 1923.
The Permian is still the nation's fifth-largest source of petroleum and natural gas.
The city of 132,000 people serves as an oil industry administrative center. Many oil wells are visible just driving around town. Helmerich & Payne rigs 466 and 644, where Mr. DeSantis spoke, are beside a Starbucks cafe.
The oil industry and a booming economy make it a great place to work, said Toan, an Uber driver.
He told The Epoch Times he moved there from Dallas because he could make twice as much driving and that fast-food workers in Midland all make $15 an hour or better.
Mr. DeSantis's "Freedom to Fuel Plan" is laid out in more detail in a document released by his campaign.
To "restore American energy independence," he pledged to "unleash oil and gas exploration and development" to "crush inflation and support working families."
He wanted to "replace climate change ideology with energy dominance in all national security and foreign policy guidance," and refill the Strategic Petroleum Reserve—to limit its future use to emergencies, and "revitalize our nuclear energy industry."
To "save the American automobile," he said he'll repeal the Biden administration's EV mandates and "support Americans' right to drive the cars they want."
Extending initiatives he's already instituted in Florida, he would prevent using environmental, social, and governance (ESG) regulations and prohibit government accounts and pensions from formally using such considerations.
He'd repeal Biden-era rules targeting gas stoves, furnaces, and appliances, and repeal recent extensions of the Waters of The United States (WOTUS) rules.
The 1972 Clean Water Act gave federal jurisdiction over navigable waters, but the Environmental Protection Agency has long sought to extend that "far beyond anything a riverboat could navigate, to rivulets, ditches, and potholes," according to the National Review.
How far the EPA can go has gone back and forth over the past decade, batted back and forth by the Obama, Trump, and Biden administrations and subject to court interpretation, most recently in the May 2023 Supreme Court decision, Sackett v. The Environmental Protection Agency. It narrows the agency's authority to regulate bodies of water.
Those who own the land, he said, "are the best conservationists. It's their land. they want the land to do well. They don't want the land to be bad."
In his energy policy, Mr. DeSantis proposed to "reform environmental permitting and end green lawfare."
Specifics include streamlining the environmental review process for energy and infrastructure projects, working with states to reduce time and duplication in permitting, and preventing "abusive litigation by environmental groups and defund ideological activism."
The plan included various measures to address and boost the production of critical minerals, including oil, gas, coal, and uranium, allow their development on federal land, reduce reliance on China, and create a Critical Mineral Strategic Reserve.
He'd order agencies to establish forest management plans to prevent future wildfires.