The Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition Presidential Forum was supposed to offer a platform where the Republican presidential candidates could share their views on conservative social values.
So why did the candidates spend so much time talking about energy?
It turns out the event was sponsored by the Iowa Energy Forum. A little online digging reveals the group, which most voters have probably never heard of, is an arm of America's Energy Forum, an organization sponsored by the American Petroleum Institute.
At the October 22, 2011 Iowa Faith and Freedom Presidential Forum in Des Moines, Moderator Jerry Bohn, a Republican Iowa State Senator, asked all six of the participating candidates to respond to two questions about energy policy.
"What is your comprehensive plan to shape your future administration's energy policy, and please include how this vision differs from the approach of the current administration?"
"If you could reverse one energy related policy decision from the last three years, what would it be and what would you have done differently?"
Judging by their responses, which were captured on video by C-Span, the GOP presidential candidates arrived eager to please potential the forum's Big Oil sponsors.
"Green energy is a joke," said Herman Cain.
Rick Perry took aim at President Obama's response to the BP oil spill, calling the administration's moratorium on offshore drilling a "knee jerk reaction." Michele Bachmann took that critique to a whole new level.
"There was devastation that occurred because of the oil flow that occurred, but there was nothing that was worse than the moratorium that he put on," Bachmann claimed.
Only Newt Gingrich had anything of substance to say about clean energy. Referring to Iowa, the former House Speaker had this to say, "20 percent of your electricity here comes from wind, which makes it second only to Denmark as a producer of wind."
"I would extend and make permanent any kind of credit for things like wind and solar," he went on to say.
Still, Gingrich was also careful to add, "But I'm also for oil and gas."
Ron Paul offered the most unusual quote on energy of all of the candidates.
"Well, my energy plan is we need to produce energy the same way we produce cell phones," the Texas Congressman said.
Perhaps Dr. Paul is aware of some new technology that transforms iPhones into a renewable source of energy?
As for real world policies, Paul suggested that public lands in the West that are home to some of the nation's shale oil resources be turned over the private landowners.
There is an age-old adage that holds that if you want to know what is driving policy decisions, just follow the money. No special interest has deeper pockets than the fossil fuel industry, a fact made all the more evident by the rhetoric being thrown around at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition Presidential Forum.
Photo of Herman Cain courtesy of Gage Skidmore.