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Rick Perry Offers His Version Of 'Drill, Baby, Drill'

<p>Texas Gov. Rick Perry lays out his energy plan at a US Steel plant in West Mifflin, Pa., Oct. 14, 2011.</p>
Jeff Swensen
Getty Images

Texas Gov. Rick Perry lays out his energy plan at a US Steel plant in West Mifflin, Pa., Oct. 14, 2011.

Ask yourself what sort of energy plan you would likely get from a conservative governor from the oil and gas patch who gets a lot of political and financial support from the fossil-fuel industry and who is openly hostile to the federal government and that's pretty much the energy plan Texas Gov. Rick Perry proposed Friday.

In a speech near Pittsburgh, Perry called for opening up areas now off limits to energy exploration and production and declawing the Environmental Protection Agency. Those and additional steps could create 1.2 million news jobs, he said. (As Steven Mufson and Jia Lynn Yang of the Washington Post recently reported, many economists believe that number for potential jobs first cited by the American Petroleum Institute is a gusher of overstatement.)

Anyway Perry, who is trying to gain renewed momentum after a precipitous drop in the polls, promised that the energy policy was only the first installment of a larger economic plan still to come.

Even so, the energy plan allowed him to trot out a new slogan: "Make what Americans buy, buy what Americans make and sell it to the world."

Catchy though it is, it has an obvious problem; Americans buy many things more cheaply produced overseas than in the U.S. So the economics aren't as straightforward as Perry's slogan suggests.

But if you're going to try to compete in a contest in which Herman Cain's 9-9-9 tax plan, has sucked up so much oxygen, there's a case to be made for keeping it simple.

Perry said:

My plan is based on this simple premise: Make what Americans buy, buy what Americans make, and sell it to the world.

We are standing atop the next American economic boom...energy.

The quickest way to give our economy a shot in the arm is to deploy American ingenuity to tap American energy. But we can only do that if environmental bureaucrats are told to stand down.

My plan will break the grip of dependence we have today on foreign oil from hostile nations like Venezuela and unstable nations in the Middle East to grow jobs and our economy at home.

America has proven but untapped supplies of natural gas, oil and coal. America is the Saudi Arabia of coal with 25 percent of the world's supply. Our country contains up to 134 billion barrels of oil and nearly 1.2 quadrillion cubic feet of natural gas.

We have the resources we need to fuel our cars, our homes and our power plants. They can be found in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Texas, Oklahoma, North Dakota, New Mexico, Alabama, Kentucky throughout the American West and, of course, Alaska.

But President Obama and his over-reaching Environmental Protection Agency won't allow American businesses and American labor to draw on even a fraction of this domestic energy from reserves on government-owned lands.

On one hand, the Obama Administration opposes fossil fuel development at home, and then on the other hand encourages countries like Brazil to drill offshore and sell it to American consumers, creating foreign jobs and foreign profits

That's wrong. That's hypocritical. That's unfair. America should not be, and when I am president will not be, held hostage by foreign oil and federal bureaucrats.

Michael Steele, the former chair of the Republican National Committee, had famously refined this down to "drill, baby, drill" at the 2008 Republican National Convention, a cry later taken up by Sarah Palin and more recently embodied in the economic proposal issued by congressional Republicans.

So Perry's energy strategy conformed by and large to what other Republicans are calling for and that could be a problem for Perry.

While the Texas governor was framing the energy issue as a contest between his approach and President Obama's, Perry's more immediate challenge is to distinguish himself from the man who many see as the most likeliest candidate to win the nomination.

No, that's not Cain despite his frontrunner status in the latest polls but Mitt Romney.

Romney's lengthening list of endorsements from establishment Republicans as well as the money, organization and past experience of a national race make him appear to be well poised still to be the nominee after all the dust has settled.

While Perry once led Romney and the rest of the GOP field in the polls, he now trails the former Massachusetts governor. Romney's 59 point economic policy proposals include the same energy features Perry offers — less regulation and more areas opened up to exploration and drilling.

Like Perry, Romney would limit federal subsidies to energy companies, including renewable energy sources, restricting federal help to research. That happens to be the same position taken by the oil and gas industry which has bristled at federal subsidies for ethanol and other renewable energy sources.

So if you like Perry's energy proposal, it's difficult to see why you wouldn't like Romney's.

And that's the point. If Perry has any hope of recapturing his momentum in the race for the GOP presidential nomination, he'll need to get past Romney. But it's hard to see how a me-too energy policy helps him accomplish that.

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Frank James joined NPR News in April 2009 to launch the blog, "The Two-Way," with co-blogger Mark Memmott.