Perry pledged Friday to expand energy production on federal lands, curb regulation and create some 1.2 million jobs in the process.
"We must get America working again and a big part of the solution is right under our feet and right off our coasts," the Texas governor said at a Pittsburgh area steel plant. "Creating jobs in America is as simple as changing presidents and that is the choice facing America."
Perry's speech on a "pro-American, pro-jobs energy policy" comes as his campaign tries to move beyond some early bumps and his momentum seems to have slowed. Shaky debate performances took some of the luster off his campaign, and as voters got to know details of his record they seemed to sour on yet another GOP contender who was, at one point, an instant front-runner.
Perry hoped to calm those jitters with Friday's speech at a U.S. Steel plant that produces sheet metal used to make household appliances. While echoing the popular-with-Republicans call for increased drilling on federal lands, he also cast voters' choice in 2012 as a referendum on President Barack Obama.
"When it comes to energy, the president would kill domestic jobs through aggressive regulations while I would unleash 1.2 million American jobs through safe-and-aggressive energy exploration at home," Perry said. "President Obama would keep us more dependent on hostile sources of foreign energy, while my plan would make us more secure by tapping America's true energy potential."
But Perry's speech did not mention that it can be years between when drilling begins for new energy sources and a significant number of jobs can be created.
With a nod to a capital locked in partisan fights, Perry promised Congress would play only a small part in his plan. "It can be implemented quicker and free of Washington gridlock because most of it does not require congressional action," Perry said. "Through a series of executive orders and other executive actions we will begin the process of creating jobs soon after the inauguration of a new president."
And, he promised, it would come quickly: within the first hundred days of his administration.
"We're standing on top of the next American economic boom. It's the energy that's under this country."
Perry also spoke in support of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline that is under review at the State Department.
"It's either going to go west to China or south to America. I know where I want it to go," Perry said.
The 1,700-mile pipeline, which would travel through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma and end on the Texas Gulf Coast, would carry an estimated 700,000 barrels of oil a day, doubling the capacity of an existing pipeline from Canada. Supporters say it could significantly reduce U.S. dependence on Middle Eastern oil.
The project has become a flashpoint for environmental groups who say it would bring "dirty oil" that requires huge amounts of energy to extract and could cause an ecological disaster in case of a spill.
"The quickest way to give our economy a shot in the arm is to deploy American ingenuity to tap American energy. But we can only do that if environmental bureaucrats are told to stand down," Perry said.
The governor entered the presidential campaign in August and has spent much of the time since then talking in generalities and discussing his time as governor of Texas, a period in which jobs were created amid a recession. He boasts of his decade of leading Texas and credits the state's low level of regulation for helping it fare better than most.
Yet Perry's rivals have been relentless in calling for specifics.
Mitt Romney, who released a 160-page economic policy proposal, has hammered Perry particularly hard. Romney's aides released a 114-page document titled "Rick Perry's Plan To Get America Working Again." Inside, there were 103 blank pages.
"Mitt has had six years to be working on a plan," Perry said earlier this week when asked during a debate when he would offer specifics. "I have been in this for about eight weeks."
Perry's plan was certain to find fans among many conservatives, whose support he must recapture if his presidential plan is to succeed.
In his plan, Perry called for:
-- Allowing increased energy production on federal land, including Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
-- Changing the public's view of the nation's abundance of coal. "America is the Saudi Arabia of coal," he said.
-- Increasing off-shore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean.
-- Reviewing the Environmental Protect Agency's air quality regulations and taking away its oversight of greenhouse gas emission regulation he called "draconian."
-- Forcing advocacy groups to sue the government by taking away agencies' ability to compromise.
-- Maintaining a ban on drilling in Florida's Everglades.
"The American economy shouldn't be beaten into the ground when ... lower energy costs lie right under our soil," Perry said.