POINCIANA — Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann claimed Saturday that the United States has more fuel resources than any other country, but she blamed what she termed "radical environmentalists" for bottling up America's energy policy.
With untapped oil reserves in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and off the nation's coasts, shale oil in western states and rich natural gas and coal deposits, she said the United States "is sitting on a mother lode of treasure."
"The United States is the No. 1 country in the world for energy resources," the Minnesota representative said at a Central Florida town hall meeting, arguing that in shale deposits alone the United States easily outstrips the total oil supply of Saudi Arabia. "That doesn't even include … all the oil in Alaska."
But Bachmann said environmentalists are preventing resources from being exploited, leaving the United States dependent on energy imports.
"Instead of thinking we are beggars out here begging for oil and for energy, we are the king daddy dogs when it comes to energy," she said.
"The radical environmentalists have demanded that we lock up all our energy resources," she added. "President Bachmann will take that key out of the door. I will unlock it."
The crowd at the upscale retirement community cheered wildly.
And Bachmann got a similar reception when she promised to eliminate the "job killing" Environmental Protection Agency, saying that she would close the agency down in a single trip. "We will turn out the lights, and we'll lock the doors," she said.
Bachmann is in the middle of a three-day swing through Florida. Later Saturday she addressed the Florida Family Policy Council, which led efforts to ban gay marriage in the state Constitution and which supports antiabortion legislation. She praised the group's work as she talked about discovering Jesus as a teenager.
"I wasn't a bad girl. I didn't drink. I didn't smoke. I didn't do drugs. I didn't chase around with boys. It didn't matter. I still didn't know the Lord," Bachmann said. Then she told a story about walking into an unlocked church at night with friends when she was 16. She said she and her friends cried and confessed their sins.
"At that moment I gave my heart to Jesus Christ," Bachmann said. "I knelt beside my bed and I said, 'Lord, I have no idea what just happened to me tonight. All I know is that I'm a completely different person.' "
Bachmann said she will be returning often to Florida, which could play a key role in determining which GOP candidate faces off against President Barack Obama.
The state hasn't set a primary date yet. But Florida officials hope to schedule the state's primary ahead of those of all but the four earliest voting states — Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.