WASHINGTON — Fading Republican 2012 candidate Rick Perry pledged Friday to unleash a new economic boom by throwing open land and seas to oil drilling and tapping America's status as the "Saudi Arabia of coal."
The Texas governor tried to revive his presidential campaign with the first of a series of policy speeches, in which he pledged to swiftly create 1.2 million jobs in a wholesale rejection of Obama-era energy policies.
"America needs jobs. America needs energy. America needs a made-in-America energy revolution," Perry told steel workers in the gritty city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a vital general election swing state.
"We must get America working again. And a big part of the solution is right under our feet and right off our coasts.
"We're standing on top of the next American economic boom, and it's the energy underneath this country."
Perry's plan to harness fossil fuels horrified the environmental lobby, which has been critical of even President Barack Obama's failure to act more aggressively to back a concerted policy to tackle global warming.
But the Texas governor rejected the idea that the United States must choose between exploiting its energy resources and protecting the environment.
Perry accused the federal Environmental Protection Agency of waging a "war on American fossil fuel production" and argued that the energy industry was better regulated by state and local authorities.
"I'll stop the EPA's draconian measures related to the regulation of greenhouse gasses," Perry said, saying it was unfair for any carbon emission cuts to be offset by those from China and India.
"The EPA would... tie this economy in knots and give the advantage to our global competitors, while realizing absolutely no global environmental benefit in the process."
Perry promised to open gas and oil fields for exploration in the Gulf of Mexico, Alaska -- including in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve -- and off the coast of Virginia, as well as to do more to tap energy stocks in America's interior.
"You know, America has proven but untapped supplies of natural gas, of oil, of coal. America's the Saudi Arabia of coal," he said.
"But President Obama and... the 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 land."
He said now was the "time to end the over-regulation, excess litigation, and bureaucratic intimidation."
"Let's get back to what works to get America working again: Make what Americans buy, buy what Americans make and sell it to the world," he added.
Perry exploded into the Republican race in August and swept to the head of the field by overhauling long-time frontrunner Mitt Romney.
But shaky debate performances dimmed Perry's star and the latest polls suggest he has slipped behind Romney and former pizza tycoon Herman Cain.
The Perry plan drew immediate criticism from environmental organizations, which charged his policies were influenced by big oil and gas interests.
The League of Conservation Voters said the strategy would "expand risky oil drilling on federal lands and offshore, roll back clean air protections and end many incentives for development of renewable energy."
The Sierra Club dubbed the initiative "Wheeze, Baby, Wheeze" and charged it would poison America's air and water.
"Rick Perry?s energy plan reads like a roadmap for making America?s kids sick," said Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune.
"Under this plan, we can expect to see much higher rates of asthma among children, and risk to pregnant women from mercury exposure."
Perry delivered the speech as scientists accused his state of deleting references to climate change and sea-level rise from an environmental report.
"It's censorship," said John Anderson, an oceanographer with Rice University who said state officials had gutted his work on the state of Galveston Bay.
A spokeswoman for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality said the state environmental agency disagreed with information in the report, but declined to provide details.
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Photo by Gage Skidmore posted at Flickr.