STEUBENVILLE -- Rick Santorum accused the Obama administration of devastating the economy through its "radical economic policies,'' as he rallied voters in this key Super Tuesday state.

Speaking to an enthusiastic crowd of roughly 500, swelled by students from nearby Franciscan University of Steubenville, Mr. Santorum contended that the administration was stifling growth through unreasonable regulation of coal and other fossil fuels.

"You have a gem here in this college,'' he said, acknowledging the students in the crowd. "[It is] a beacon of light ... rekindling of the flame of authentic Catholic doctrine.''

Mr. Santorum tried to strike other common chords with his audience as he reminded them of his grandfather's work as a coal miner and the common economic legacy he shared with a region just across the Ohio River from the district he onnce represented in Congress.

"Affordable low cost energy really drove this country,'' he said. "This area of the country is rich in every rich in tradition and rich in understanding how energy drove the economy.''

He denounced EPA regulations on emission that he said would force the closing of coal fired power plants and he contended that twas administration was unreasonably aggressive in regulating the natural gas fracking industry that has burgeoned in the region.

"It's important is understand that this area of the country has suffered dramatically, [because of the] devastation of radical energy policies,'' he said.

Referring to the administration refusal to grant an immediate permit to the Keystone Pipeline, a proposal that would send Canadian oil from tar sands to U.S,. refineries, he said, "The president says ... send it to China; I don't care.''

As Mr. Santorum returned to his critique of the administration, he contended that his earlier criticisms "phony theology'' had been distorted by "less erudite members of the national press corps.''

He referred to the attention drawn by to his remarks on the other side of the sate over the weekend when he argued that the administration's environmental approach was the product of a "phony theology.''

Later he said he was not questioning the president's religion but a misplaced agenda setting the earth rather than human beings as the core concern of environmental regulation. On Monday, he repeatedly argued that concern over global warming was rooted in "political science,'' rather than actual evidence.

The controversy didn't deter the former senator from discussing religion as he contended that the government was planking its own drive for power ahead of the concerns of private institutions such as religion.

"Government has been able to centralize power is by weakening the institutions that people rely on in their lives,'' he said.

The former senator argued that the recent controversy over whether religious institutions should be required to pay for health care coverage for contraception was part of a continuing pattern. He noted that the administration in ints first year had proposed a limit on charitable tax deductions for wealthier taxpayers and argued that that was evidence of a governmental effort to consolidate power by weakening other institutions.

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