KENNEWICK — Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, speaking at an eastern Washington campaign stop Thursday, pledged to open federal lands and offshore areas to oil drilling in an attempt to make the United States energy independent.
Several hundred people turned out to hear Gingrich speak in Kennewick.
Gingrich focused most of his speech on rising gas prices and energy development. He said that, if elected, he would immediately approve a proposed oil pipeline that would carry Canadian oil produced from tar sands to refineries along the Texas Gulf coast.
“We have a government that is anti-American energy, so they are blocking us from developing ourselves,” Gingrich said. “We should become energy independent so that we can bring down the cost of gasoline with a goal of $2.50 per gallon, so people are in a position that they can afford to drive their car.”
Energy development will keep $500 billion at home, create millions of new jobs in the United States and improve the standard of living across the whole country, he said.
Gingrich is in a crowded primary race with Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul, but he is trailing Romney and Santorum in the polls. All four are visiting Washington in advance of the state’s nonbinding caucus March 3.
Gingrich referred to only Romney by name, noting his large fundraising lead but said his experience at a national level makes him best qualified of the four candidates. Instead, Gingrich focused his attacks on President Barack Obama, calling him an anti-religion president and the most dangerous administration in history in terms of national security.
“This is a radical left-wing administration, which is against developing energy in the United States and is actively engaged in appeasing our enemies in the Middle East,” Gingrich said to cheers from the crowd.
Gingrich was scheduled to travel to Spokane and Idaho later Thursday and will be in western Washington today. He’ll address a rally at 7 tonight at the Historic Everett Theatre.