Speaking before Covington residents Wednesday, presidential candidate Newt Gingrich said fully exploiting America's oil and natural gas reserves would solve many of the country's ills.
Gingrich attended a rally at Peachtree Academy in Covington and told the crowd there that his domestic energy plan could allow the U.S to be stronger dealing with foreign governments, spur an economic recovery, reduce gasoline prices to $2 to $2.50 a gallon and eventually help American pay off its national debt.
He referred to recent discoveries of vast oil reserves in North Dakota's Bakken rock formation, which has 25 times more oil than originally expected, as well as natural gas reserves in rock formations and offshore, which Gingrich said could supply U.S. demand for 125 years.
"Nobody in Washington understands this, and very few people in the news media understand this. These two facts, North Dakota and shale gas, these two facts indicate that if we were to go all out in developing American oil and American gas offshore, on federal lands, we would become very rapidly the number one oil producing country in the world again," Gingrich said.
"I have a very simple goal. That would mean that no American president would ever again bow to a Saudi King."
Expected to focus exclusively on gasoline prices, Gingrich spent the first half of his nearly 18-minute speech skewering Obama's handling of recent foreign policy issues in the Middle East. However, his foreign policy focus formed the platform for his plan to drill for more oil and natural gas in America, which he called a national security issue.
He criticized Obama for apologizing to Afghans after U.S. marines burned Qurans, the Muslim holy book, disposing of them by throwing them into a fire pit last week. Gingrich said Obama should have more closely examined the situation and realized that the marines were burning books that had already been defaced by Muslin prisoners and were being used to pass written messages back and forth.
"We need a commitment to an American foreign policy that follows American interests that isn't trapped in various international attitudes and international biases. I believe when a president, as commander in chief, apologizes at a time when young Americans are being killed that there is something profoundly wrong," Gingrich said. "But I also think this most recent incident is a very good moment to take a deep breath and say you know, maybe we beter have a national conservation about our entire foreign policy."
"We should have called on good Muslims to join us in condemning defacing the Quran by these people who are extremists, but nobody is prepared to stand up and make the arguments. We're not prepared to say ‘We're not a bad people. We do not go around capriciously doing bad things.'"
The criticism of Obama went over well with the Covington crowd, eliciting yells and chants from the crowd, including "Give him the boot, Newt."
Gingrich said no one apologized after churches were burned in Nigeria, Egypt and Malaysia and after a Christian minister was sentenced to death in Iran after converting from Islam.
"But you all know the dirty little secret. The reason we can't tell the truth to the Saudis is we rely on them for oil. So I am in favor as a matter of national security of having an American energy plan making us independent of the Middle East by producing oil and gas in the U.S.," Gingrich said.
By fully exploiting oil and natural gas reserves in the U.S., Gingrich said the country could create more than a million new jobs, save $500 billion in revenue being sent overseas and generate $16 to $18 trillion in royalties from allowing federal land and offshore seas to be drilled.
"(The royalties) would actually come in the next generation to somewhere between $16 and $18 trillion...about as much as the national debt. So if you sequestered it over here and balanced the budget, you could use the oil and gas royalties to actually pay off the national debt," he said.
"So, in one strategy, you quit bowing to the Saudis and you quit bowing to the Chinese. Because you buy back your debt with the money that used to go to the Saudis."
In addition, Gingrich said such a strategy would reduce gas prices below $2.50 a gallon, as opposed to the $5 to $6 a gallon prices he said would come with another Obama term. Such price increases would lead to another economic recession, he said.
Gingrich called on all of his supporters to write "Newt = $2.50 a gallon" on their Facebook page, to use the Twitter hashtag #250gas and to donate how ever many "Newt gallons" (a $2.50 donation) they can. For those skeptical of his plan, Gingrich invited people to view his 30-minute video on newt.org explaining his energy plan.
"Would you rather have food stamps and dependency or would you rather come with Newt and have a job and paychecks?" Gingrich said.
"I believe with your help we can give these young people a dramatically better future. This is the most important election in your lifetime. Four more years of Barack Obama is going to give these young people a much worse future. So if you will help me, I am pretty confident that I am the one candidate that can stand up on a stage and debate Barack Obama. I think together we can change history."
Thoughts from the crowd
The majority of attendees already supported Gingrich before hearing him speak, including Charles Strickland, who helped found the local Newton GOP around 50 years ago.
"Newt and I were about the only Republicans, one of the few Republicans. He's brilliant really. If he's elected, if somebody can just hold him down and not let him get too many ideas, he'll make a good president," Strickland said.
"We need somebody with some common sense up there, and Romney, he's been governor of one of those liberal states, Massachusetts. He can't be conservative. And the other one, Santorum, he's been a senator...from up there. There's no such thing as conservative Republicans up there. They all have to be more liberal than the Democrats to be elected, so we have enough of that stuff."
Eastside seniors Lisa Ngyien, Courtney Reid and Erin Steele were leaning toward Gingrich, but weren't 100 percent convinced.
"We really just wanted to come see what he had to say. I think he's a respectable candidate and might possibly get my vote," Reid said. "I'm here because I'm not 100 percent sold. I just need assurance that he would be best candidate."
Two Oxford residents Jena Clark and Carl Ray said they were 100 percent behind Gingrich because he was the most conservative candidate and best suited to beat Obama.
Mike from Butts County, who declined to give his last name because he was worried his job could be affected as his boss is an Obama supporter, said he believes Gingrich is the smartest guy in the race, but he doesn't know if he can deliver on his gas price promise.
"The gas issue is a big one. I don't know how real it (Gingrich's plan) is, but that's a big issue," Mike said. "I'm behind him until he's out (of the race)."