Republican hopeful DeSantis slams EVs, climate “fear” in energy speech

By Gram Slattery

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Republican presidential contender Ron DeSantis pledged on Wednesday to slow America’s transition to electric vehicles, repeal regulations related to environmental, social and governance considerations and dramatically ramp up domestic fossil fuel production if he were elected.

In a speech in Midland, Texas, a city in the heart of oil country, the Florida governor also said he would withdraw the U.S. from global agreements to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to fight climate change, while increasing production of crude, gas, coal and uranium on federal lands.

Taken as a whole, the plan represented a doubling down on pledges DeSantis and most of his Republican opponents have made on the campaign trail to jettison limits on fossil fuel production and consumption and slash federal regulations. While the Florida governor had acknowledged that human-induced climate change was real earlier in his career, he has since backed away from that position, a shift that was apparent on Wednesday.

“We’ve seen a concerted effort to ramp up the fear when it comes to things like global warming and climate change,” he said.

DeSantis, whose home state of Florida has been struck by multiple powerful hurricanes during his time in office, added that “human beings are safer than ever from climate disasters,” thanks largely to increased access to electricity and power.

He said that under his administration, the federal government would replace the phrase “climate change” with “energy dominance” in key foreign policy and national security documents, though he did not specify which documents in particular would be affected.

Energy dominance was a theme of former President Donald Trump’s administration. Under President Joe Biden, a Democrat, U.S. oil output is expected to hit a record level this year.

Oil and gas executives are among DeSantis’ top boosters and financial backers, and DeSantis has been meeting with donors this week throughout Texas to refill his campaign coffers.

Among those who have donated to DeSantis are Continental Resources founder Harold Hamm and Dan Eberhart, the head of Colorado-based oilfield services firm Canary.

“We will unleash American energy dominance as a way to stop inflation and achieve $2 gas in 2025,” DeSantis said on Wednesday. The average on Wednesday for U.S. retail gasoline was about $3.88 a gallon.

DeSantis’ speech, which was meant to broadly lay out his energy policy, comes as his campaign is in need of a boost. The Florida governor has slid in the polls for months, and he now sits 37 points behind former President Donald Trump, according to the latest Reuters/Ipsos poll.

According to the remarks and a factsheet released alongside the speech, DeSantis will “repeal Biden’s EV mandates” and prevent “California and faceless bureaucrats from setting America’s environmental standards.”

The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed rules that could result in as much as two-thirds of the new vehicle market shifting to EVs, or electric vehicles, by 2032. California is seeking to enforce its own, more stringent rules to reduce vehicle emissions, a plan opposed by congressional Republicans.

DeSantis’ plan called on pensions and government accounts to eliminate environmental, social or governance considerations, known as ESG, from consideration when making investment considerations, a plan which tracks closely with moves he made as Florida governor. He added he would strike a rule proposed by the Securities and Exchange Commission which would require companies to make certain ESG-related disclosures to investors.

In addition to expanding fossil fuel production, DeSantis called for significant investments in so-called critical minerals, including the creation of a Critical Mineral Strategic Reserve.

DeSantis said he would seek to require plaintiffs to pay compensation when they bring spurious litigation against energy projects.

He added that he would repeal rules establishing protections for seasonal streams and wetlands that have upset farmers, a key constituency in the politically key state of Iowa.

(Reporting by Gram Slattery; Additional reporting by Sabrina Valle, Richard Valdmanis and James Oliphant; editing by Timothy Gardner)