ABC News’ Michael Falcone reports:
UPDATED: CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Potential presidential candidate Haley Barbour appears to be staking out a moderate position on global warming than some of his possible rivals, saying at an event in eastern Iowa on Friday that the country should “proceed in national policy as if global warming is actually happening.”
Barbour, who has consistently opposed regulation of the energy industry, made the comments in response to a question from an Iowa voter who asked the Mississippi governor whether he thought global warming was real.
“I think the prudent thing for us, when you consider the potential risk, the prudent thing is to proceed as if global warming is an issue,” Barbour said at a luncheon organized by a local Republican group, the Linn Eagles, “but we don’t have to destroy the American economy for no positive results to do that.”
But in an interview with a blogger at the Conservative Political Action Committee Conference in Washington last month, Barbour seemed more skeptical when asked to comment about record cold temperatures in parts of the country this year.
“This global warming is about to freeze me to death,” Barbour said in jest. It's not the first time Barbour has used the quip — he said nearly the same thing in January during his State of the State speech at the Mississippi statehouse.
And on Friday, at the same time he acknowledged that the country should act as if global warming is occurring, he also added: “There are a lot of people who are very, very, very learned scientists who question whether or not what is happening is caused by man-made activity.”
Other potential 2012 Republican hopefuls have taken a harder line on the issue. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., who is edging closer to a presidential run, recently made her view clear: “The science indicates that human activity is not the cause of all this global warming.”
At his speaking appearance before the group of about 75 Iowa voters, Barbour, a former lobbyist who once worked on behalf of energy companies, did not hesitate to criticize the Obama administration on energy issues.
“The negative effects of the cap and trade law, the negative effects of many of Obama’s energy policies on our economy and the quality of life in the United States are enormous,” Barbour said.
As he has before Barbour called for expanded oil and natural gas production in the United States, more nuclear energy and well as the development of alternative energy sources like wind and biofuels.
“The energy policy of the Obama administration is to drive up the cost of energy so Americans will use less of it,” he said. “That’s not an energy policy, that’s an environmental policy.”
Barbour was traveling around the state on Friday on his second trip here in just the past two weeks, another indicator of how seriously he is considering a presidential run.
“I think Iowa’s not only important to winning the Republican nomination as the first state, I think it also may be the critical state for winning the presidential election,” he said. “I think 2012 is likely to be a very close race and that this state could be pivotal.”
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post misstated Gov. Barbour's position on global warming. He did not excplicity state that it is occuring, but instead said that the country should act in national policy as if it is.