Trump and Haley target DeSantis’ energy record with eyes on Iowa caucuses Ginger Goepper only spoke to Ron DeSantis for 15 seconds in the summer of 2018, but the environmental advocate managed to secure an on-camera pledge from the Republican to ban fracking in Florida if he became governor. Fast forward to 2021 and DeSantis, who won the Florida governorship and is now widely presumed to be considering a 2024 presidential bid, has not only failed to accomplish that, but he is facing criticism from fellow Republican figures looking to curry favor with conservative primary voters, like former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley and former President Donald Trump. In a recent op-ed for Breitbart, Trump criticized DeSantis for failing to deliver on his promise to ban fracking, writing that the governor "largely ignored what I had to say," despite Trump's popularity among Republican primary voters. Trump's attack on DeSantis comes as Florida, one of the country's largest energy consumers, faces a reckoning over its energy future. The state relies heavily on coal, natural gas, and nuclear power, but a transition to renewable energy sources like solar and wind is becoming increasingly important in the face of climate change. DeSantis' aides say that while the governor has not yet supported a statewide ban on fracking, he has taken steps to address climate change in other ways. This includes creating the Resilient Florida program, which aims to protect Florida's environment and economy from the impacts of climate change. "He has done more for the environment and Everglades restoration than any other governor in recent history," said DeSantis' spokeswoman Christina Pushaw. However, critics argue that DeSantis' record on the environment and energy is not as strong as he claims. They point to his appointment of individuals with ties to the fossil fuel industry to key environmental positions and his support for the construction of a controversial toll road that would cut through environmentally sensitive areas. "Ron DeSantis talks a big game on the environment, but his actions tell a different story," said Aliki Moncrief, executive director of Florida Conservation Voters. DeSantis' energy record is likely to be a key issue in the lead-up to the Iowa caucuses, where Republican presidential hopefuls traditionally have to appeal to the party's conservative base. Nikki Haley, who is also rumored to be considering a presidential run in 2024, has wasted no time in targeting DeSantis on this front. In a recent speech in Iowa, Haley criticized DeSantis for his failure to ban fracking and called for a greater emphasis on renewable energy. "We have to be a party that gets serious about the environment," Haley said. "We can't just be against things. We have to be for something." Haley's comments echo a growing sentiment within the Republican Party, as some conservative lawmakers and voters become increasingly concerned about the impacts of climate change and the need to transition to cleaner energy sources. But for many Republicans, including those who still support Trump, embracing renewable energy is seen as anathema to the party's pro-business, pro-fossil fuel stance. In his op-ed, Trump acknowledged the need for cleaner air and water, but argued that a focus on renewable energy would harm American businesses and jobs. "The 'Green New Deal' would destroy our country and put us at a permanent disadvantage to China and other countries," Trump wrote. DeSantis' cautious approach to energy and the environment reflects a broader quandary facing Republican candidates as they navigate an increasingly divided party. Some GOP voters, especially younger ones, are demanding action on climate change, while others still prioritize traditional conservative values like small government and free markets. Finding a balance that can appeal to both factions will be crucial for any Republican candidate seeking to win the nomination in 2024. And with DeSantis and Haley both eyeing a potential presidential run, their contrasting approaches to energy and the environment could become a key battleground in the upcoming primary season. While DeSantis may face criticism from some quarters for his energy record, he still enjoys strong support among many Republicans, including Trump, who praised his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic and even hinted at the possibility of choosing DeSantis as his running mate in 2024. Ultimately, DeSantis' energy record will be just one piece of the puzzle as Republican primary voters evaluate potential candidates. But as the party grapples with the impacts of climate change and the need for clean energy solutions, the issue is likely to play a prominent role in the lead-up to the Iowa caucuses and beyond.
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