WASHINGTON – Senator John Kerry this morning aggressively defended President Obama’s handling of the oil spill in the Gulf Coast, and said the spill illustrated the need for Congress to act on the Massachusetts Democrat’s signature climate change bill.
“This is ridiculous folks,” Kerry said this morning at an hourlong breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor. “From day one, this administration has had its top personnel all over this issue. They don’t drill wells, companies do. And the oil companies are the people who are supposed to have the technology to shut it down.”
“We’ve had this lack of oversight for years,” Kerry added. “The president’s been in office for a year and a half and suddenly a well blows out and everybody says, ‘Why can’t you plug it?’”
Kerry, along with Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, filed legislation earlier this month that aims to reduce reliance on foreign oil while putting a price on carbon emissions and providing billions of dollars in incentives for industry to drastically cut greenhouse gases.
Some critics have suggested that the oil spill has added to the political uncertainty of passing the legislation this year, although Kerry argues that it makes his case stronger that more alternative energy sources should be promoted.
“Drilling is not what this bill is about,” Kerry said. “This bill is about liberating us from drilling.”
In response to the oil spill, he bill also gives states more say over offshore drilling, allowing them to veto plans for drilling within 75 miles of their shores. In addition, they could veto plans for drilling off neighboring states if they can demonstrate significant impacts.
Still, Kerry said, it would be unrealistic to think that drilling for oil will be curtailed anytime soon.
“Clearly the rules have been laxly applied,” Kerry said of the regulations over offshore drilling. “But as I’ve said before, for better or worse, we’re stuck with having to drill for the next 20, 30 years unless there is some extraordinary breakthrough with a new fuel mechanism that will [change] where we are today.”
“We’re not going to stop drilling in the Gulf tomorrow, folks, let’s be realistic,” he added. “There are 48,000 wells out there, one of them went sour.”
Kerry also defended the bill from criticisms that it contains taxes on businesses.
“People want to talk about cost of energy and tax and so forth,” Kerry said. “We’re paying the [Iran President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad, Iran tax, every single day. We send $100 million a day to Iran. Does that make sense? Does it make sense, 9 years after 9/11 to be more dependent on foreign oil?”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said that he will decide within weeks whether to bring the climate change legislation to the Senate floor this year, or if instead he would push for a smaller package.
“Health care pushed us back. We’ve been dealt a difficult hand,” Kerry said. “I can’t tell you for certain what’s going to happen.”
“It’s the right policy,” he added. “And I’ll push for it, whether it’s now, or after the election, or next year. We’ve got to get this done for our country, and I’m not going to get hung up over the when. We’re going to try and do it as soon as we can.”
Matt Viser can be reached at email@example.com.
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.