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Elephants in the Room

A quick look and the outdoor cred and environmental records of the Republican candidates

The Republican candidates debate in Iowa (
The Republican candidates debate in Iowa

One hunts varmints. Another thinks the EPA should go the way of the spotted owl. Another rides a Harley to campaign events and has called for cap-and-trade regulations on power plants. They’re the Republican candidates for President of the United States, and they’ll soon be on a ballot near you. Here’s what you need to know about their outdoor sporting backgrounds and views on the environment. Ratings on outdoor cred go from 1 (I see plenty of nature—along the side of the Interstate) to 10 (I crap in the woods and like it). Ratings on the environment go from 1 (global warming is nothing but a job-killing, freedom-hating conspiracy) to 10 (I want to hug Al Gore like Tipper won’t anymore). The candidates included in this list still stand a snowball’s chance in the rapidly melting Arctic of winning the Republican nomination. Former New Mexico governor and adventure athlete Gary Johnson isn’t included—Outside  already covered him in detail here.

Rick Perry

Mitt Romney

Michelle Bachman

Newt Gingrich

Ron Paul

Jon Huntsman

Herman Cain

Rick Santorum

Rick Perry

Governor of Texas

Rick Perry at CPAC
Rick Perry at CPAC (Gage Skidmore)

Outdoor cred: 10

Environmental cred: 1

Spends his time outdoors in: Texas

Bio: Perry is a former Eagle Scout who spent the first five years of his life in a Texas farmhouse that didn’t have indoor plumbing. He majored in animal science at Texas A&M, flew planes for the Air Force, and entered politics as a conservative Democrat who campaigned for Al Gore in the 80s before changing parties. He’s an active runner and no believer in climate change.

Telling quote: Global warming is “all one contrived phony mess that is falling apart under its own weight,” he said in his book. Meanwhile back home, Texas suffered from the most blistering summer and worst wildfires on record in 2011.

Loves to: Hunt. He says he once shot and killed a coyote using a laser-guided pistol loaded with hollow-tipped bullets—while he was jogging. He also takes bow-hunting trips with rocker Ted Nugent. You've probably heard about his ranch.

Environmental Stance: Thanks to a stroke of Perry’s pen, Texans can now hunt invasive and incredibly destructive hogs from helicopters. Yee-haw. In 2009, he sued the federal government to fight the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision that carbon dioxide could be regulated under the Clean Air Act. On the issues page of Perry’s Web site, he doesn’t mention the environment.

Mitt Romney

Former Governor of Massachusetts

Mitt Romney
Mitt Romney (Gage Skidmore)

Outdoor cred: 9

Environmental cred: 5

Spends his time outdoors in: New Hampshire and Utah

Bio: The son of the former governor of Michigan, Romney has spent his life in the political spotlight and was elected governor of Massachusetts in 2002. As the head of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, he rescued the Games from from financial disaster. Like Perry, he’s a former Eagle Scout.

Telling quote: "Do I think the world's getting hotter? Yeah, I don't know that but I think that it is," Romney said. "I don't know if it's mostly caused by humans."

Loves to: Ski, run, and horseback ride. He owns a home and boat on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire. He once said, “I’ve been a hunter all my life,” but then admitted he had only been on a couple of hunting trips. His nuanced follow-up: “I've always been a rodent and rabbit hunter. Small varmints, if you will. I began when I was 15 or so and I have hunted those kinds of varmints since then. More than two times," according to the Associated Press.

Environmental Stance: Once a supporter of cap-and-trade in the Northeast, he’s now staunchly against any kind of regulation aimed at curbing climate change. He admits that he thinks the planet is getting warmer, but has recently backed away from his belief that it’s caused by humans. As governor of Massachusetts, he cut funding for protection of state park, forests, and beaches by one third, or roughly $40 million, according to the Boston Globe.  Romney thinks we should drill, baby, drill and supports promoting research in renewable energy technology.

Michelle Bachman

Congresswoman from Minnesota

Michelle Bachman
Michelle Bachman (Markn3tel)

Outdoor cred: 1

Environmental cred: 1

Spends her time outdoors at: campaign events

Bio: A member of the US House of Representatives from Minnesota’s Sixth Congressional District in the northern suburbs of the Twin Cities, Bachmann worked as a tax lawyer for the IRS before entering politics as a state legislator. She was once named to the “Dirty Dozen” list of anti-environmental legislators by the League of Conservation Voters.

Telling quote: “Carbon dioxide is natural. It occurs in Earth. It is a part of the regular lifecycle of Earth. In fact, life on planet Earth can’t even exist without carbon dioxide.”

Loves to: Be a foster parent. She has taken 23 into her home over the years, all teens.

Environmental stance: She wants to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, says cap and trade is nothing but a liberal scheme to raise money for funding entitlements, is no friend of the EPA, opposes regulations to phase out old incandescent light bulbs, and proposed drilling in the Everglades—a proposal that led to guffaws from liberal and conservative groups in South Florida.  

Newt Gingrich

Former Speaker of the House

Newt Gingrich at the Iowa State Fair
Newt Gingrich at the Iowa State Fair (Gage Skidmore)

Outdoor cred: 1

Environmental cred: 8

Bio: The Republican policy geek to end all policy geeks, Gingrich served as a congressman for two decades—including a stint as the Speaker of the House for four tumultuous years during the Clinton administration. He spent much of his childhood in Pennsylvania but moved to Georgia in high school and has made the state his home ever since. He holds a PhD in history from Tulane University, and taught history and environmental studes at the University of West Georgia (West Georgia College, at the time) in the early 1970s.

Telling quote: “I don’t think that we have conclusive proof of global warming.”

Loves to: visit zoos, according to his Facebook page. And run for president.

Environmental stance: Where to begin? He wants to replace the EPA with a vague and undefined government bureau called the Environmental Solutions Agency (ESA); he’s a big fan of nuclear power to reduce our carbon footprint, and he was for cap and trade before he was against it. He once wrote a book called “A Contract with the Earth,” a 10-point plan to encourage politicians of all stripes to work together, through the free market, to solve pressing environmental issues. But later he wrote another one called “Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less.” Four years ago, Gingrich starred with Nancy Pelosi in an ad advocating environmental action for Al Gore’s Alliance for Climate Protection.

Ron Paul

Congressman from Texas

Ron Paul
Ron Paul (Gage Skidmore)

Outdoor cred: 1

Environmental cred: 1

Spends his time outdoors: scurrying from his car to the front entrances of buildings.

Bio: Paul isn’t just some nerdy libertarian egghead who reads “Atlas Shrugged” like Billy Graham reads the Bible. He was once an elite runner too, winning the Pennsylvania state championship in the 220 and 440, and placing third in the 110-yard dash in high school, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune Review and his Linkedin page. Paul practiced medicine for 15 years as an obstetrician before being elected to Congress in 1976. He went back to being a doctor in 1985, but was elected again to the House of Representatives 11 years later, and has held the office ever since. He believes in getting the government completely out of our, and the free market’s, way—opposing everything from the Patriot Act, to gun control, to environmental regulations, to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. He also favors the eradication of the federal income tax. 

Telling quote: Global warming is “the greatest hoax I think that has been around for many, many years.”

Loves to: rail against deficits.

Environmental stance: Let’s just say that Ron Paul is no friend of polar bears or the Florida manatee. He wants to eliminate the EPA, and in line with his libertarian philosophy, erase from the books a slew of regulations on the oil, gas, coal, and nuclear power industries. He’d even go so far as abolishing the federal gas tax, which is used to pay for road and bridge construction and maintenance. On the plus side, though, he has supported tax credits for the solar industry and bike commuters, and tax deductions for public transportation riders.

Jon Huntsman

Former United States Ambassador to China

John Huntsman
John Huntsman (Courtesy of John Hunstman)

Outdoor cred: 4

Environmental Cred: 8

Spends his time outdoors on: the open roads, riding his motorcycle. He also mountain bikes and hikes.  

Bio: The former Eagle Scout and son of a billionaire, he dropped out of high school to join a rock band, but later got his GED and earned a degree in international politics from the University of Pennsylvania. He worked for three Republican presidential administrations, became governor of Utah from 2005 to 2009, and was appointed by President Obama as ambassador to China in 2009. 

Telling quote: “Listen, when you make comments that fly in the face of what 98 out of 100 climate scientists have said, when you call into question the science of evolution, all I'm saying is that, in order for the Republican Party to win, we can't run from science,” he said at a recent debate in response to the opinions of other candidates.

Loves to: go vroom. During the TV ad that launched his presidential bid, he’s shown riding motocross.

Environmental stance: While in office the former governor of Utah eagerly promoted his state’s recreational opportunities, from national parks to ski slopes, and has long been an advocate of mitigating climate change. In 2007, he brought Utah into the Western Climate Initiative, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Herman Cain

Former president of National Restaurant Association

Herman Cain
Herman Cain (Gage Skidmore)

Outdoor cred: 1

Environmental cred: 1

Spends his time outdoors at: Many Tea Party rallies.

Bio: The Memphis-born and Georgia-raised mathematician worked as an analyst for Coca-Cola, Pillsbury, and Burger King until he became the CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, serving for nearly a decade until the mid-90s. He now hosts a radio show and writes books.

Telling quote: “I don't believe global war—global warming is real. Do we have climate change? Yes. Is it a crisis, no,” he told a CBS interviewer.

Loves to: Write books. He’s published five of them in the last 15 years. He’s also an accomplished singer.

Environmental stance: He believes government regulations on the environment hurt jobs, strongly opposes any kind of cap and trade or carbon tax, and has suggested eliminating the EPA. Cain is a big fan of energy sources that come from the ground. He says America is rich in coal, oil, natural gas and uranium. He said the United States would be able to break its dependence on foreign energy sources if the government would get out of the way and allow people to drill, mine, and frack more.

Rick Santorum

Former Senator from Pennsylvania

Rick Santorum with Tea Party volunteers
Rick Santorum with Tea Party volunteers (tlsmith1000)

Outdoor cred: 1

Environmental cred: 1

Spends his time outdoors at: the entrance to coal mines. He announced his candidacy for president in front of one.

Bio: Born in West Virginia and raised in Pennsylvania, Santorum has spent his life in coal country. He graduated from Pennsylvania State University in the early 1980s, earned an MBA from the University of Pittsburgh, and then graduated with a law degree from Dickinson College. He was elected to the US House of Representatives in 1990, and four years later to the Senate.

Telling quote: Coal is not a dirty word if we are realistic about saving the earth.”

Loves to: Be a family man. He’s got seven kids.

Environmental stance: Santorum has been a staunch advocate for coal, and much of the environmental legislation he has supported or sponsored over the years has been aimed at promoting the industry. He aided the Bush administration in reducing the EPA’s limits on the amount of mercury emitted from smokestacks, he supports drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and expanding oil exploration in the Gulf of Mexico, but has been a supporter of research into hydrogen cars. 

Filed To: Politics
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