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Ethanol Is Great Energy Divide for GOP Presidential Field

By Erin McPike - June 17, 2011

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He went on to admonish Huntsman for vowing to skip the state over the issue, calling it a political ploy that hasn't worked in the past.

But at the other end of the spectrum, Huntsman and Romney are getting squeezed for their stance on climate change, as both former governors believe that global warming is real and that humans have contributed to it.

For Huntsman, who is competing hard in New Hampshire, such a stance could help. But for Romney, who is still contemplating trying to win over the far right in the Hawkeye State, it could be a tight squeeze -- especially after doing some damage to his New Hampshire prospects by continuing to support ethanol subsidies.

"I believe the world is getting warmer, and I believe that humans have contributed to that," Romney said earlier this month during a town-hall meeting in Manchester, N.H. Not surprisingly, the comment was panned by some conservatives and praised by some liberals -- including former Vice President Al Gore, who has made climate change his pet issue.

But if Romney has to worry about his stance on climate change and how to marry it with the need to increase domestic energy production, he's not alone. Pawlenty has been forced to apologize for supporting a regional cap-and-trade system, as has Huntsman. Neither former governor supports such a system any more. And former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is still under fire for appearing in a TV spot with former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to support a carbon tax.

In other words, none of the high-profile candidates in the race tests pure to conservatives when it comes to an overarching portfolio on energy policy.

What's more, without Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour or South Dakota Sen. John Thune in the race -- both of whom have dealt extensively with energy issues in their current jobs -- the field is a bit lacking in experience in this regard. (Barbour had hands-on experience coping with the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico last year, as well as attracting energy producers to Mississippi, and Thune has been a big supporter of ethanol due to its importance to his home state of South Dakota.)

If Palin enters the race later this year, she might be able to claim the most experience given her record doing battle with oil companies in Alaska -- as well as her tenure as chairwoman of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

Still, if Palin doesn't run, there remains an opening for someone in the field to claim the energy mantle.

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Erin McPike is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at emcpike@realclearpolitics.com. Follow her on Twitter @ErinMcPike.

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