Rick Perry Proposes Energy Plan to Create 1.2M Jobs

                                                                                                                      Evan Vucci/AP Photo

ABC News’ Sarah Kunin, Arlette Saenz and Huma Khan report:

In his first major policy address since entering the presidential race, Texas Gov. Rick Perry laid out a sweeping energy plan today that will expand oil and gas exploration. The GOP presidential candidate said it would spur an economic boom that he estimates will create 1.2 million U.S. jobs.

“America should not be, and when I’m president of the United States, will not be held hostage,” Perry said. “America has proven but untapped supplies of natural gas, oil and coal. America is the Saudi Arabia of coal with 25 percent of the world’s supply.”

Blasting President Obama’s “activist regulations,” and the “one size fits all mentality,” Perry said his plan would give more authority to states and level the playing field among energy producers by eventually phasing out tax credits. He also argued that it would expand domestic jobs.

“My plan is based on this simple premise: Make what Americans buy. Buy what Americans make. And sell it to the world,” Perry said at the U.S. Steel Mon Valley Works Plant in West Mifflin, Pa. “We are standing atop the next American economic boom, energy. The quickest way to give our economy a shot in the arm is to deploy American ingenuity to tap American energy. But we can only do that if environmental bureaucrats are told to stand down.”

Perry, who took a short tour of the plant before his speech, spoke to a crowd of about 100 plant employees wearing hard hats and orange vests.

The “Energizing American Jobs & Security” plan is the first phase of Perry’s economic policy rollout, which he hopes will reinvigorate his stumbling campaign. Perry will unveil phase two of the plan, which will focus on taxes and federal spending, later this month.

In a phone interview with USA Today, Perry explained that energy initiatives are capable of creating new, high-paying jobs while also aiming to “reduce our dependence on energy from nations that are all too often hostile to the United States.”

Perry’s energy plan would expand energy exploration and production on federal lands in areas such as Alaska and the Mountain West, along with permitting more offshore drilling in the Gulf and Atlantic. It would continue to uphold the ban on drilling in the Florida Everglades, which not only faces ecological problems but also resides in a key primary state. Perry would also approve the use of new pipelines, such as the Keystone XL Pipeline from Canada to Texas, to facilitate new energy fields.

The plan would strip EPA mandates and regulations that impair the energy sector, limit the ability of environmental activists to use the courts to interfere in the movement of key energy projects, and phase out subsidies and tax incentives that directly benefit specific kinds of energy production, he said. This in turn would give states the ability to determine alternative energy development in which they would like to invest.

Throughout the week leading up to the speech, Perry openly criticized the president’s approach to energy production, specifically focusing on the limitations placed on job creators by the Environmental Protection Agency, a message he carried in today’s speech.

“While President Obama has been very public about his newest jobs proposal behind the scenes, the permanent bureaucracy is working to grind the economy to a halt in pursuit of activist regulations,” Perry said. “A raft of new rules and foot-dragging by the EPA and Interior Department are killing job creation.

“The choice this election is between two very different visions for our country. 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.

Offshore drilling has come under increased scrutiny and been the subject of much political debate since the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill early last year. But despite concerns raised by the spill, 69 percent of Americans favored increased offshore drilling in a CNN poll last spring. But 77 percent in the same poll said oil companies are making “too much profit,” and 61 percent said they deserved “a great deal” of the blame for rising gas prices.

Prior to the official release of his plan, Perry conducted a media blitz — the first of his presidential campaign — to explain the basic components of his plan. Perry appeared on CNBC Thursday evening and provided a peek at the potential he believes the energy sector holds for U.S. jobs.

“We’re sitting on a treasure trove of energy in this country,” Perry said on CNBC. “There’s 300 years worth of reserves underneath the land of America and that’s how we’re going to get America working again.”

ABC News’ Gary Langer contributed to this report.