By Ben Geman - 03/06/12 02:54 PM EST
A top House Energy and Commerce Committee Republican predicted Tuesday that Newt Gingrich’s claim that he could bring gasoline prices down to $2.50 per gallon would fall flat with voters.
“I think that is a political promise that probably cannot be attained,” said Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), who heads the Energy and Power subcommittee and is backing Mitt Romney in the GOP presidential race.
Gingrich has largely staked his struggling campaign on claims that he’d be able to bring prices to $2.50 through a huge drilling expansion, scaled-back environmental rules and other policies.
Whitfield, speaking at a forum hosted by Politico, said he wasn’t familiar with Gingrich’s pledge but expressed doubt it would catch fire with voters.
“I don’t think that the overwhelming number of voters are going to buy that,” Whitfield said.
“I think that voters are pretty sophisticated out there, and I think they are going to view it as something that was said during a political campaign,” the Kentucky Republican added.
Romney and other GOP candidates, along with congressional Republicans like Whitfield, have sharply criticized White House energy and environmental policies.
They have taken aim at the rejection of the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline and alleged that offshore oil-and-gas leasing plans are far too modest.
Whitfield has led the charge for House GOP efforts to block the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) power to regulate greenhouse gas emissions and roll back power-plant rules that Republicans call economically burdensome.
He said Tuesday that a GOP White House victory would provide new opportunities to re-examine air-pollution regulation. “It would be nice to revisit some things like the Clean Air Act, for example, which hasn’t been looked at since 1990,” Whitfield said when asked about what could be accomplished if a Republican defeats President Obama.
Whitfield said he will examine the Clean Air Act with “forums” this year with people on various sides of the issue and perhaps float more legislation to alter the statute.
He said that he’s seeking changes to the way EPA calculates the benefits of regulations, which he and other Republicans have criticized, and that the forums would identify other issues.