Story highlights

Jeb Bush said he believes his energy proposal could create 1 million jobs and enhance the country's national security

The former Florida governor also called for more local control of natural resources

Pittsburgh CNN —  

Jeb Bush praised capitalism in pushing his energy proposal on Tuesday, which he said could create 1 million jobs and enhance the country’s national security by loosening regulations and lifting the ban on crude oil exports.

The former Florida governor, making his case at an oil and natural gas company in western Pennsylvania, also called for more local control of natural resources. The quickest boost to the economy, he argued, would be approving the Keystone XL Pipeline.

“As president, I would approve the XL pipeline, for crying out loud. That is the lowest hanging fruit,” he said to applause from employees at Rice Energy, Inc., in Canonsburg.

It’s a position that’s part of his regular stump speech and puts him in line with many in his party, but it’s squarely in opposition to who he describes as “radical environmentalists.”

Opponents of the project cite environmental concerns and worries about the impact on tribal communities near the pipeline, but proponents, like Bush, say that the finished project would create thousands of jobs and contribute to economic output.

Bush hit President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton for bowing down to their base on the issue and vowed that he won’t be “pressured” by special interest groups.

“We need to embrace energy revolution. We have it in our midst,” he told the audience, which was gathered under a tent outside as heavy rain poured down around it.

Part of that revolution, he has argued in the past, includes new advances in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing. Rice gets some of its gas through fracking, and, according to the campaign, would benefit from Bush’s policies.

The company and its subsidiaries have been subject to 121 violations with the state Department of Environmental Protection and amassed more than half a million dollars in fines since 2010, according to the Huffington Post.

Bush argued that companies like Rice face too many regulations, something he says holds back energy growth. It’s all part of what Bush considers federal overreach that limits state and tribal use of natural resources. Cutting back on such regulations, he said Tuesday, would help with “decomplicating life” for businesses in the energy sector.

Bush frequently criticizes Obama’s use of executive orders to create new rules, like standards for carbon plants and limits on greenhouse gas emissions, though he didn’t specifically refer to them on Tuesday. He also didn’t mention that the Obama administration giving approval to Shell earlier this year to drill in the Arctic waters off the coast of Alaska, a decision that angered environmental activists in Obama’s base.

Another key part of his pitch was framing energy as a national security issue. Bush called for rules that would make it easier to export natural gas to countries in eastern Europe so they weren’t so dependent on Russia’s natural gas supply.

“We should have a north-south corridor from Poland down eastern Europe, using American natural gas as a source of our foreign policy tools,” he said.

Bush praised Rice as a company on the rise and got fired up when talking about the potential of the energy sector. When he learned that the employees had stock in the company, Bush mimicked an evangelical preacher to praise capitalism.

“I hope your stock price goes up, too, because that’s American capitalism at its best. It’s not owned by one or two people,” he said. “Praise Jesus.”

He went on to extol the virtues of capitalism and pointed out that America’s property rights are unique in the world because they allow private individuals to make profits off of the earth underneath their land.

“Preach!” Bush said, poking fun at his excited soliloquy about the U.S. economy as the audience applauded. “I feel like I’m at the pulpit, it’s like a tent revival meeting.”