WHEELING - A nation's wealth is tied to its energy usage, and Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum believes the Obama administration is working to lower Americans' quality of life through decreased energy consumption.
During a stop in Wheeling Tuesday to serve as keynote speaker of West Liberty University's Economics Club, Santorum said he would work to grow the nation's coal and natural gas industries. He suggested the public exploit "the criticism we've seen from those we've elected - particularly this president" when it comes to drilling for natural gas and mining coal.
"The bottom line, if we are going to solve our energy problems, we have to do it in one of two ways," Santorum told a crowd of more than 150 in the Capitol Theatre ballroom. "You either have to increase supply, or decrease demand. It's Economics 101.
"The president is fixated on decreasing demand - that's his only option. What it means as an option is the quality of life in America will go down."
He said that "if you look at every country in the world," you find that energy consumption and wealth are "tied together in a straight, even correlation."
"The higher the rate of energy consumption you have, the better standard of living an economy has," Santorum said.
Photo by Scott McCloskey
Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum addresses a luncheon at the Capitol Theatre Ballroom on Tuesday, sponsored by the West Liberty University Economics Club.
He said the nation should become more efficient in its energy use, and is doing that.
"My vision is to grow the energy sector, to grow natural gas ..." Santorum said. "We need to exploit that."
Santorum, 53, a former senator representing Pennsylvania, said his background has helped to shape his political ideology. Although born in Winchester, Va., he spent his first seven years growing up in Martinsburg, W.Va.
His family later moved to Butler, Pa., where the main industries were Pullman Standard and Armco Steel. His Italian immigrant grandfather worked as a coal miner in Somerset County, Pa.
"It was a good day when I smelled the blast furnaces," he said, recalling his youth. "You knew people were working. ... Manufacturing was very much a part of the economy in the town I grew up in.
"When I saw America growing up in Butler, Pa., I didn't know many wealthy people - I didn't know anybody who belonged to a country club. But I knew a lot of folks who made a very good living and raised very strong families. It was ideal growing up in this little steel town," he said.
And Santorum said economic policy can't be discussed without including government policy and its effect on small towns.
"We're seeing this enormous growth of government," he said. "We're seeing the regulatory aspects - not just things in President Obama's proposals but in the things that have been done. It's crushing business and regulation. ... It's making it more expensive to do business here, and harder to get a return on investment."
As a result, what America has seen is the migration of jobs that sustained its smaller communities, he said. He cited figures noting that 40 years ago, 21 percent of the American population worked in industrial jobs. Today, it's 9 percent.
"We need to get back to a manufacturing, energy-based economy in the communities that once thrived doing it," Santorum said.
He said the local proliferation of Marcellus Shale reserves has the potential to bring wealth to local areas.
"Nobody knows what is going on in West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania - and to some degree, New York. Nobody realizes this enormous gas find - the second largest in the world, the largest in North America - and we're standing on top of it. It is creating wealth, and it will create enormous wealth for local communities, for landowners in the communities, and jobs. It will transition all of this area over time as the wealth begins to accumulate."