Drill here, drill now, pay Newt Gringrich

In recent months, arch-conservative former House speaker Newt Gingrich has been trying to reinvent himself as an environmentalist. He’s penned a platitudinous book titled - inevitably - A Contract With The Earth. He’s spoken, sentimentally and at length, of his special kinship with an orphaned polar-bear cub named Knut. He’s done the rounds on all the talk shows, reminding us that he almost became a zoo director instead of a politician. Hell, he’s even joined Nancy Pelosi for a session on Al Gore’s big green couch.

But it wasn’t long before the jolly-green-Gingrich pose began to come apart at the seams. Since May, the former speaker has been larding his environmental rhetoric with calls for America to begin new drilling programs to achieve energy independence and bring down the price at the pump. Never mind that domestic oil production will never put a significant dent in gas prices or offset the demand for imported oil: Newt’s sloganeering - “Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less” - hit a nerve, and more than 1.3 million people signed a petition backing his campaign.

That was bad enough. Now, though, researchers at the Alaska Wilderness League have revealed that Gingrich’s cheerleading for Big Oil was bankrolled by a veritable Who’s Who of the extractive industries. The group behind Newt’s drilling drive has taken hundreds of thousands of dollars from executives and investors with close ties to companies like Exxon, Shell, and Suncor; see for the full list.*

All this shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise; after all, Newt himself is a fellow at the Exxon-funded and climate-change denying American Enterprise Institute. But it’s an important reminder to those who bought into Gingrich’s supposed Damascene conversion to the green cause, and saw his polar-bear hugging antics as a sign of genuine commitment to the battle against climate change.

In fact, it’s now clear that Gingrich was simply attempting to greenwash his continuing bought-and-paid-for allegiance to the oil companies. That’s a big disappointment. We badly need bipartisan climate action, and Newt promised to be a powerful voice for change, paving the way for a new generation of conservative conservationists. Instead, it turns out that his conversion to environmentalism was only skin deep. The cynics were right: Newt is no bipartisan visionary, but merely another oil-company shill.

[*This blog was altered on 7/25/08] 


Mr. Whitford,

We would like to correct an error regarding your mention of Michael Berolzheimer's affiliation with Duraflame, Inc. and his support of Newt Gingrich's Drill Here, Drill Now initiative.

Michael Berolzheimer has not been an employee, nor a shareholder of the company for more than 20 years. Any support he is providing to Newt Gingrich is of a personal nature and has no tie to the interests of Duraflame, Inc.

In 2007 Duraflame converted all of the production of its branded wood wax firelog products away from the use of petroleum wax and we now only use renewable, non petro-chemical ingredients in our firelog products.

So the assertion in your article that somehow Michael Berolzheimer's support of Newt Gingrich would benefit our company is completely false and without merit.

Please retract that statement accordingly.

Chris Caron
Vice President, Brand Development
Duraflame, Inc.
Stockton, CA

Thanks for the clarification, Chris -- it turns out there were actually a couple of inaccuracies in the list distributed by the AWL, so I've removed those details from the post. Check out the group's website for the updated version!

The article “Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Newt Gingrich” cites a report by the Alaska Wilderness League on the American Solutions “Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less” campaign that is so riddled with errors, distortions, and innuendo that one must wonder why Mr. Whitford thoughtlessly accepts its conclusions even though he admits it has “inaccuracies.”

It is simply ludicrous to assert that American Solutions is, as the Alaska Wilderness League asserts, “funded by Big Oil” or that Speaker Gingrich is, as Mr. Whitford put it, an “oil company shill.”

The fact is that American Solutions is a non-partisan, internet-based, and citizen-centered organization with over 93,000 donors. The Alaska Wilderness League highlighted thirteen, or .014% of our donors. How does the League and Mr. Whitford account for the donations of the other 99.86%?

The fact is that of the thirteen donors the Alaska Wilderness League highlighted in their report, not a single one currently works in the oil industry. For example, the report cites someone who did legal work for Texaco over 30 years ago as an example of a donor with ties to the oil and gas industry. That a 30 year old event somehow discredits a contributor to our organization’s effort to lower gas prices is beyond absurd. Further, the group’s initial report, released on July 14, misidentified one of the donors as another person with the same name and incorrectly cited another donation at 10 times the actual amount donated. (The report was mysteriously changed two days later, July 16, on the League’s website, but has no language owning up to their errors.)

The fact is that our petition to lower gas and diesel prices has been signed by 1.3 million Americans. Does the Alaska Wilderness League and Mr. Whitford believe these 1.3 million Americans who want to drill here, drill now, so we can all pay less are all members of a “Big Oil” conspiracy? On the contrary, the only common financial tie between those 1.3 million Americans is that they are all paying too much at the pump. These petition signers are responding to a positive solution to this challenge facing America.

On this issue, Speaker Gingrich and American Solutions have been clear and consistent: we need to develop both long-term and short-term breakthroughs simultaneously. We eagerly await the time when America can break its dependence on foreign oil and replace fuels that contribute to carbon loading, but it must be done in ways that do not wreck the economy.

There are 240,000,000 cars and trucks in the current fleet that run on gas and diesel. We need to take steps in the short run to lower fuel costs for truckers, farmers, small business owners, and Americans of all backgrounds who are suffering and desperately need relief. We will not realize a clean, efficient energy future if we go broke.

Clearly, drilling for more American oil is an important first step to lowering gas prices, but it is only one part of our strategy to do everything we can to lower energy prices. Speaker Gingrich and American Solutions also favor clean coal, nuclear, wind, solar, biofuels, flex-fuel cars, hydrogen, and prizes for technological breakthroughs for new ways to successfully move toward affordable energy independence and a cleaner environment. That is hardly a “Big Oil” agenda.

Therefore, contrary to Mr. Whitford’s assertion, Speaker Gingrich and American Solutions are committed to bipartisan action on climate change. The fact that Mr. Whitford so thoughtlessly and reflexively dismissed Speaker Gingrich and American Solutions efforts suggests that it is, in fact, he that is need of a commitment to bipartisanship.

Best regards,

Rick Tyler
Spokesperson for Speaker Newt Gingrich