New York Times
Wednesday,September 20, 2023 8:40 p.m. ET
DeSantis Slams Biden Climate Policy: ‘An Agenda to Control You’
The Florida governor delivered an address in Texas that favored oil and gas development over climate agreements and electric vehicles.
By Anjali Huynh
Reporting from Midland, Texas
Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida on Wednesday unveiled an energy plan in the heart of oil country, criticizing electric vehicles and global climate agreements, promising lower fuel prices and pushing for more oil and gas development.
In a policy rollout at an oil rig site in Midland — a West Texas city that derives much of its economy from oil production — Mr. DeSantis seemed to make a general-election argument, promising to roll back several of the Biden administration’s climate initiatives, calling them “part of an agenda to control you and to control our behavior.”
“They’re trying to circumscribe your ambitions. They are even telling our younger generations to have fewer children, or not to even have children, on the grounds that somehow children are going to make our climate and planet unlivable — and that’s wrong to say,” he told a crowd of a few dozen rig workers and reporters.
Mr. DeSantis mentioned his chief rival in the Republican primary, former President Donald J. Trump — whom he trails by a wide margin in the polls — only once.
That didn’t stop Mr. Trump’s campaign from taking a shot at the governor for his remarks. Steven Cheung, a Trump spokesman, used expletives in calling Mr. DeSantis a “candidate that just steals from President Trump’s policy book” in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, during the governor’s remarks.
In a lengthy, six-pronged policy outline, Mr. DeSantis promised to remove subsidies for electric vehicles, take the U.S. out of global climate agreements — including the Paris accords — and cancel net-zero emission promises. He also vowed to increase American oil and natural gas production and “replace the phrase climate change with energy dominance” in policy guidance.
Mr. DeSantis spoke from behind a lectern that read “$2 in 2025,” a nod to his campaign’s promise to lower gas to $2 in the first year of his administration (a number not seen consistently since the George W. Bush administration). His remarks — delivered above the sounds of heavy machinery — paired standard Republican energy policy, blasting foreign energy dependence and blue state regulations, with criticism of the Biden administration’s focus on reducing carbon emissions and incentivizing clean energy.
The Biden campaign criticized Mr. DeSantis’s plan.
“This is a deeply unserious and impractical plan that won’t actually lower gas prices to $2 per gallon and is chock-full of the climate denialism that defines the MAGA Republican Party,” Ammar Moussa, a spokesman for the Biden campaign, said in a statement. “Voters need look no further than DeSantis’s own state — where his agenda is leading to skyrocketing energy costs for his constituents and natural disasters are causing tens of billions of dollars in damages — to know what DeSantis’s plan would mean for the country.”
Mr. DeSantis calls his plan “Freedom to Fuel,” and it includes a segment on automobiles, an industry segment that has also put Mr. Biden under scrutiny by Republicans, with autoworkers on strike. The United Auto Workers began targeted strikes last week over contract talks.
In a recent op-ed piece in The Des Moines Register, Mr. DeSantis promised to “stand with our farmers” by opposing electric vehicles and supporting biofuel usage, a nod to the state’s large agricultural industry.
But asked Wednesday if he believed that fossil fuels contributed to climate change, Mr. DeSantis deflected — which he has done repeatedly, most notably on the Republican debate stage last month.
“The climate clearly has changed — you can judge that, I think, objectively. I think the question is, is what policy posture are we going to take from that?” he said, pointing to his own proposal as the “most practical way to reduce global emissions.”
During his visit to Texas, Mr. DeSantis is also attending several high-dollar fund-raising events across the state over the next few days. But while he has had fund-raising success among Texas donors in the oil and real estate industries, some large donors nationally have expressed hesitation. And his fund-raising in the state has not necessarily translated to grass-roots support: The Oil and Gas Workers Association, based out of nearby Odessa, Texas, announced Wednesday that it would endorse Mr. Trump.
Jimmy Gray, a Midland oil rig worker since 1979 who supported Mr. Trump in the last election, said after the event that he was impressed by Mr. DeSantis but remained undecided in the Republican presidential contest.
“I’ve seen a lot of policies in a lot of administrations, and a lot of things change throughout that time, but one thing that hasn’t really changed is that in order for us to decrease costs across the country, energy — in whatever form that is — has to be done right,” he said.
“Ron DeSantis made some good points — he’s got me interested,” he added. “I just would like to see a different direction than what we’ve got now.”
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