NORTHFIELD, N.H. — Former Utah Gov. John Huntsman told reporters Monday afternoon that he favors permanently ending the Department of Energy loan guarantee program under which the now-bankrupt Solyndra obtained $535 million in taxpayer funds.
He made the comments after speaking to an overflowing crowd at a retired train depot in New Hampshire.
“We should end all subsidies,” Huntsman said in response to a question from The Daily Caller. Pressed for clarification on Solyndra’s specific situation, he added, “and loan guarantees are subsidies.”
Huntsman did not address the wisdom of continuing with other “green energy” programs which the Obama administration has mainstreamed and popularized. He also refused to comment on the question, also raised by TheDC, of whether Energy Secretary Steven Chu should step down in the wake of the Solyndra scandal.
The Republican presidential candidate and former Obama administration ambassador to China did argue, however, that a major reason companies like Solyndra “crash and burn” is that “government moves faster” on these technologies “than the market is ready to accept.”
Earlier, Huntsman expanded what was expected to be a foreign policy speech into a rousing speech covering his positions on energy independence, the deteriorating economy, military engagement and jobs. (ALSO ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL: Bachmann: Holder should resign ‘if the facts prove to be what they appear to be’)
The most controversial moment in his presentation came during his response to the first question from the audience, from a man who wanted to hear Huntsman’s policy on the Keystone XL crude oil pipeline which is slated to connect the tar sands region of Alberta, Canada, with oil refineries on the Gulf Coast of the United States.
“Pipelines are tricky things, [but] we need to be energy independent,” he said.
Arguing that energy trade will enhance the U.S.–Canada relationship, Huntsman ended his answer emphatically, visibly disappointing the questioner: “I believe the energy relationship with Canada is here to stay, and I believe we should maximize it.”
Huntsman devoted the balance of his energy talking points to advocating for a larger role for natural gas. “I believe we have a heroin-like addiction — 60 percent — to imported oil,” he explained. “How stupid are we? Let’s start making the transition based on what we have in abundance.”
The former governor’s most powerful foreign policy moment came as he promised that “within a year of becoming president” he would preside over a troop drawdown in the Middle East. Reducing U.S. military numbers there from 100,000 to “a much smaller presence … both in Afghanistan and Iraq would be the right thing to do. And bring them home.”
“Our job in Afghanistan is not nation-building,” he added. “We should not be nation-building in another country when we should be building our own nation.”
On his domestic plans, Huntsman focused largely on his call for a federal balanced budget amendment. He also called America’s national debt “a national security issue — and we must treat it as such.”
His other domestic policy specifics included a movement toward smaller banking institutions and away from what he referred to as large banks that behaved too much like “public utilities.”
“If I had my way,” he mused, “I would move back to where we were in the mid to late ’90s.”
Surprising some in the assembled audience, Huntsman straddled the line of demarcation that has defined the politics of same-sex marriage, defining his policy ideas in a way that redefines the question as a question of states’ rights.
“I support the Defense of Marriage Act,” he declared. “It allows states to do whatever they want to do.”
One minute later, he assured his base: “I support civil unions.”
“If you’re going to make it a state issue,” Huntsman explained, “the Defense of Marriage Act is an important safeguard” for occasions where one state won’t recognize the validity of a gay marriage performed in another.
After a brief introduction by former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, who was also the United States’ first Homeland Security Secretary, Huntsman seemed to acknowledge his lack, so far, of mainstream popularity. “I’m not going to get everybody’s support,” he said. “I know that.”
He followed this by promising not to sign any single-issue pledges from special interest groups, claiming he would distinguish himself by being “the only candidate up on that stage tomorrow who doesn’t sign pledges.” Tuesday night will see a GOP debate at Dartmouth College, in Hanover, N.H.
As the applause receded, Huntsman added: “I’m not going to make the journey to New York to meet with Donald Trump, either.”
David is The Daily Caller’s executive editor. Follow him on Twitter