Oil Spill Revives Debate on Energy Bill
As the Obama administration faces ongoing criticism over its response to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) used the crisis as support for his push for a comprehensive climate and energy overhaul.
Appearing on ABC’s “This Week,” Kerry said that the oil spill highlights the need to “put America on the course to true energy independence and self-reliance.”
“Congress has staring it in the face an opportunity to catch up to the rest of the world — China, India, Germany, Japan,” Kerry said. “Other countries are using American-discovered technologies, like solar and wind, and they’re rushing them to the marketplace. The United States is losing a major economic transformational moment until we begin to do something.”
Kerry and Sen. Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.) introduced comprehensive climate legislation in May. While President Barack Obama has expressed support for the measure, Republicans have been united in opposing it.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said on “This Week” that while there are sections of the bill he’s open to, he remains opposed as it is currently written.
“We need to be very careful here. I think rather than hit a grand-slam home run, I’d like to work with Sen. Kerry and others to try to hit some singles,” Cornyn said.
Kerry responded with his own baseball analogy.
“Let me tell you, Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams and Babe Ruth never stepped up to bat in the World Series and said, I want to try and hit a single,'” Kerry replied.
Spill Takes Economic Toll
While the bill remains a topic of debate in the Senate, the oil continues to flow in the Gulf.
Adm. Thad Allen, who is in charge of overseeing the response, appeared on multiple news programs Sunday to give a progress report on the containment efforts. About 10,000 barrels of oil were captured by a containment dome Saturday, Allen said on “Fox News Sunday,” but he added that more must be done.
“We’re making the right progress,” Allen added on “State of the Union.” “I don’t think anybody should be pleased as long as there’s oil in the water. This is an insidious enemy that is attacking all of our shores. It’s holding the Gulf hostage, basically.”
Republicans criticized the Obama administration’s response to the crisis, with Cornyn saying the president must be more assertive.
“It sure has taken a long time, and I think a lot of the confusion has been because no one’s known who’s in charge,” Cornyn said. “We need the president to step up and assert himself and say, Let’s cut through the red tape.'”
While Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) joked on “Fox News Sunday” that people “don’t need Republican politicians like me piling on,” he did say the president could be hurt politically.
“The American people are making up their minds pretty clearly about what they think of the administration’s performance in this disaster, and I’ll let it stand at that,” Barbour said. “You know, Napoleon said, Never interfere with the enemy when he’s in the process of destroying himself.'”
Barbour also criticized the administration’s six-month moratorium on offshore drilling, saying it will simply encourage oil companies to drill elsewhere. “If you shut this down, don’t kid yourself. You’re not shutting it down for six months,” he said.
Barbour said his state has mostly been hit in terms of lost tourism revenue from the crisis, which Florida Sen. Bill Nelson (D) echoed on “Face the Nation.”
“There is a huge economic impact that is beginning to be felt,” Nelson said, saying tourists think the oil has reached Florida and are canceling fishing trips and hotels. Plus, fish houses around the country aren’t ordering from Florida.
While the Coast Guard is doing all it can to handle the crisis, the military might need to intervene should the oil continue to flow, Nelson said.
“If they cut if off now, we’ve got it under control,” Nelson said. “But if it continues all summer, then you’re going to have so much oil out there, there’s going to be so much impact all along the coast, that you’ve got to have the best command and control organization in the world, and that’s the U.S. military.”
Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who is running for an open Senate seat, also spoke about the oil spill’s effects on his state on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“We are just trying to do the very best we can with the resources that we have,” he said. The governor declared a state of emergency weeks ago and has steadily expanded it as the spill’s path has been projected.
The state has been placing boom, with particular concern for marshlands, which are more difficult to clean than the beaches once oil reaches the shore. We are “as ready as we can be,” Crist said, adding that Allen has been “very responsive to Florida.”
The New York Times reported this morning that Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink said some businesses in the state are on the verge of bankruptcy because of the way BP is handling the claims process related to the spill.
“We want these claims to be responded to much more quickly,” Crist said.
Melanie Starkey contributed to this report.