Gingrich: Obama supports Saudi drilling -- but not American drilling

Carpentersville, IIl. - Newt Gingrich has made it abundantly clear he enjoys getting a rise out of the White House, and seeing the president take the bait on gas prices, the candidate quickly seized the opportunity to respond.

President Obama defended alternative energy investments while addressing a community college in Maryland Thursday, arguing there is no short-term solution to fluctuating gas prices and mocking his Republican rivals' calls for more domestic drilling.

"If some of these folks were around when Columbus set sail, they must have been founding members of the Flat Earth Society," he said. "They would not have believed that the world was round."

The president left his rivals unnamed, but Gingrich has repeatedly mocked him for being "President Algae" and there was little doubt Gingrich was at the center of Obama's critique.

"The president attacked my policies a few minutes ago and I just want to respond directly to the president," Gingrich announced during an impromptu media avail with reporters while touring Otto Manufacturing -- just hours after the president's speech. He hadn't taken questions from the traveling press since before Super Tuesday.

Gingrich accused the president of being self-contradictory by criticizing the efficacy of domestic oil drilling while at the same time asking Saudi Arabia to increase oil supply as a way to mitigate high gas prices.

Earlier in the week, Energy Secretary Steven Chu said he was "enthusiastic" about Saudi openness to increasing oil production as a way to offset market volatility.

"If supply and demand works, why is the president for Saudi supply and against American supply?" Gingrich said.

"And then how does the president think the Saudis find the oil? They drill. So why is it that Saudi drilling works but American drilling, according to the president, will fail? The reason is all ideological. "

Insisting he wasn't ridiculing biofuels, Gingrich panned President Obama for offering pie-in-the sky answers to immediate pocketbook and foreign policy problems.

"I have friends at Texas A&M who are working on algae," Gingrich said. "The idea that algae is a solution this summer, is a fantasy and [the president] knows it's a fantasy. And he knows it's a fantasy."

He accused the president of being part of the "Flat Earth Sierra Club Society."

"Phase one of the president's defense against drilling was algae. But that got ridiculed so much he's now given up on algae for the moment," Gingrich said, noting the absence of algae from Obama's recent energy speeches.

"Phase two is American oil is bad but Saudi oil is good," he continued. "Now this is wrong on a couple of counts. First, I don't want the money going to Saudi Arabia. I want the money going to American companies creating American jobs in American territories. Second, we further increase our dependencies on the Saudis who are the largest funders of terrorist education and the largest funder of radical Islamist education in the world."

In recent weeks, Newt Gingrich has made his vow to bring gasoline down to $2.50 a gallon the centerpiece of his campaign platform.

On the night of his humbling second place finishes in Mississippi and Alabama, Gingrich told Fox News' Carl Cameron that he was proud of his influence in turning up the heat on Energy Secretary Steven Chu, who has since backtracked from his assertion he isn't in the business of lowering gas prices.

"Secretary Chu didn't switch his position on gasoline prices because of Santorum or Romney, he switched because of Newt Gingrich," the candidate told Cameron in an exclusive, behind the scenes interview as early ballot results indicated he would fail to finish first in the crucial Southern states.

"Now to have achieved that as arguably the third candidate in the race is not a bad week."