GOP presidential contender Newt Gingrich is planning on running a TV-show length commercial (video below) about his energy plan. As I see it, it's kind of a last-ditch infomercial or Newt sitcom to preserve his place in this primary. Unfortunately, it's a terrible idea and its flaws show just how behind Gingrich really is.
Gingrich doesn't have a lot of money with ads, so what does he do? He blows it all in a 30 minute parliamentary presentation on his energy plan. Santorum on the other hand, made a hilarious attack on Romney with his "Rombo" video, and by doing so, was able to get around his money problems because the media shared it for him. Of course, I'm sharing the link to the Gingrich ad in this post, but you won't watch all 30 minutes. Santorum's ad on the other hand was only a few minutes long and so got much more heavily watched. Santorum went new school and used viral techniques to his advantage in circumventing his money constraints, while Gingrich reached back to the Lincoln-Douglas years to to deliver a lengthy sermon. Gingrich's campaign adviser won't say how much they're spending on the ad.
Another question for Gingrich: why energy? Energy isn't even on the list of most polls that ask people what they care about, and it's not a national priority. Is it especially important for Michiganers? Is it possible that this is a (somewhat) camouflaged appeal to big oil to get some money into his campaign? Otherwise, I don't see the strategic logic behind this topic choice.
Also, I would be happy if Gingrich wanted to try to inject real substance into the presidential race, but his speech doesn't even do that.
Most of the speech in unsupported by a close analysis of energy security problems and seems to ignore the cost and uncertainty of gearing up a domestic industry that doesn't have very much oil to offer.
The speech reads in part, that we need:
"A president who is willing to replace the environment protection agency with a brand?new environmental solutions agency dedicated to common sense, to science and technology, to innovation and to be economically rational.
A president dedicated to opening up offshore so that we can develop the maximum amount of American oil and gas right here at home.
A president willing to use federal land where appropriate, not national parks, not areas of great beauty, but we have millions of acres that we can allow to be developed in a way that will be good for America, good for our economy, good for our national security."
The first suggestion is fine, but it's not deepening the debate: it's just a platitude. The second is unlikely to yield a ton of oil, and there's is no mention of the BP oil spill which shows the shocking environmental cost to such drilling. And the talk of security throughout the speech is really unsubtle, because it ignores the short and long term and the possibility of OPEC price manipulation. The best way to achieve energy security is not to scour out all the hard to get oil in the U.S., but to be more efficient about the oil we're using and find other sources of energy.
The solution should not be to drive oil prices low enough to spur another round of inefficient vehicle purchasing by American consumers (something the populist Newt hints at ("How can you let the American people buy the kind of car they want?" Are we supposed to be answering "yes" to this rhetorical question?). Innovation can come from the market, but not if we use the government to fight the trend of oil prices in the market.
As an aside, Romney might be happy because anyone that flips to Newt over this commercial is probably coming from Santorum (or maybe not if they care about energy, but roughly, Santorum and Newt tradeoff voters).
Photo Credit: Riddle