By Philip Elliott
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Republican presidential hopeful Rick Perry is promising to expand energy production on federal lands, curb regulation and create some 1.2 million jobs in the process.
"The quickest way to give our economy a shot in the arm is to deploy American ingenuity to tap American energy," the Texas governor planned to say Friday during the first policy speech of his White House run. "But we can only do that if environmental bureaucrats are told to stand down."
Perry's speech comes as his campaign tries to move beyond some early bumps and his momentum seems to have slowed. Shaky debate performances took away some of his shine, and as voters got to know details of his record they seemed to sour on yet another GOP contender who was, at one point, an instant front-runner.
Perry hoped to steady the course of his campaign in a speech at a Pittsburgh-area steel plant. While echoing the popular-with-Republicans call for increased drilling on federal lands, he also cast voters' choice in 2012 as a referendum on President Barack Obama.
"When it comes to energy, the president would kill domestic jobs through aggressive regulations while I would unleash 1.2 million American jobs through safe-and-aggressive energy exploration at home," Perry said. "President Obama would keep us more dependent on hostile sources of foreign energy, while my plan would make us more secure by tapping America's true energy potential."
Perry entered the presidential campaign in August and has spent much of the time since then talking in generalities and discussing his time as governor of Texas, which added jobs amid the recession. He touts his decade leading Texas and credits the state's low level of regulation for helping it fare better than most.
Yet Perry's rivals have been relentless in calling for specifics.
Mitt Romney, who released a 160-page economic policy proposal, has hammered Perry particularly hard. Romney's aides released a 114-page document titled "Rick Perry's Plan To Get America Working Again." Inside, there were 103 blank pages.
"Mitt has had six years to be working on a plan," Perry said earlier this week when asked during a debate when he would offer specifics. "I have been in this for about eight weeks."
Perry's plan was certain to find fans among many conservatives, whose support he must recapture if his presidential plan is to succeed.
In his plan, Perry called for:
- Allowing increased energy production on federal land, including Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
- Increasing off-shore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean.
- Reviewing the Environmental Protect Agency's air quality regulations and take away its oversight of greenhouse gas emission regulation.
- Forcing advocacy groups to sue the government by taking away agencies' ability to compromise.
- Maintaining a ban on drilling in Florida's Everglades.
With a nod to a capital locked in partisan fights, Perry promised Congress would play only a small part in his plan.
"It can be implemented quicker and free of Washington gridlock because most of it does not require congressional action," Perry said. "Through a series of executive orders and other executive actions we will begin the process of creating jobs soon after the inauguration of a new president."
Those jobs top voters' concerns. Against a backdrop of unemployment at 9.1 percent last month, Republicans seeking their party's nomination have framed almost every policy speech through an economic recovery.
Romney delivered a speech on Thursday in Washington state, accusing China of stealing American inventions, playing to voters' economic fears amid worries about another recession. And on Monday, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman rolled out a foreign policy speech that described scaled back U.S. involvement abroad to help the country focus its energies at home.
Perry's speech was set to follow that dire tone, urging voters choosing a Republican president in 2012 to try a new approach.
"The central issue facing Americans is a lack of jobs. Fourteen million Americans are without work. One in six Americans cannot find a full-time job. Forty-five million Americans are on food stamps. And 48 percent of American households have at least one resident receiving government benefits," Perry said. "Though our president has labeled Americans as soft, I believe our people have toughed it out the best they can."
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