Transcript: Interview with Sen. Jim Inhofe
April 20, 2010
Posted by Matt Dempsey Matt_Dempsey@epw.senate.gov
Transcript: Interview with Sen. Jim Inhofe
April 20, 2010
(Conducted April 15, 2010)Link to Transcript
CHAPTER ONE OPEN
MS. CUMMINGS: Welcome to Politico's video series, The Green Divide. I'm Jeanne Cummings, and I'm here on Capitol Hill with Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, who's here to discuss the debate and the bill of the day.
SENATOR INHOFE: Nice to be with you, Jeanme.
MS. CUMMINGS: Senator, you have expressed some concerns about this debate and about this legislation. Why don't we start off with you giving us a brief description of where you stand on the issues today.
SENATOR INHOFE: Well, you know, we don't know what this legislation is. Every time they try to come up with a new version of cap and trade - this started right after Kyoto. Of course, we had the McCain-Lieberman Bill of '03 and the McCain-Lieberman Bill of '05 and in the Lieberman-Warner Bill of '08, and then, '09, the Waxman-Markey. It doesn't make any difference, they're all the same, and if they're going to have cap and trade, they're going to have cap and trade, and there's going to be cap and trade on this.
Now, so, I-when I look at this, I think their strategy was-was-is-is flawed, because they've tried it before: It's called "divide and conquer." So, what they have done is-and I-I have a great affection, particularly for Lindsay Graham, but I-it's kind of humorous, because they go to the various elements of the oil industry and the gas industry and the coal industry and they carve out special deals and they try to bring them in, or at least to break them so that-as I call it, "divide and conquer." And consequently, it's-it's-it's not going to work. So, I don't see this any differently than I did the years that I spent debating the McCain-Lieberman bills when they were on the floor of the Senate.
Let's keep in mind, that endured about four years, and the arguments are just about the same. The only difference now is that they don't have anything for us to look at, so that you can't-you can't-you know, argue against something unless you've seen what it does.
MS. CUMMINGS: Now, when you speak of the divide and conquer strategy, they have been very aggressive this cycle to try to bring on some of those industry groups, coal, big oil, nuclear, as you said, and offer them things in the legislation.
SENATOR INHOFE: Mm-hmm.
MS. CUMMINGS: They seem a bit more generous this year. Will they have more success this year or why do you think it will not work?
SENATOR INHOFE: Well, here-here's the problem, Jeanne. You might be able to break down some groups and get them to come over, but when you do that, you lose others. Let's-let's look at the offshore provision, which we don't know what it is, but they say, we're going to expand the capacity to use offshore. Well, there's a letter with ten Democrats that say, if you do that, we're going to oppose the bill. So, once they go in there, they may pick up three or four votes here, but they lose ten over here. So, I think that's-it's going to be something they'll introduce and have a big celebration on Earth Day, and then it will go away.
CUMMINGS: This week, obviously, everyone will be celebrating Earth Day, legislation will be unveiled, but the Senate has a pretty jammed calendar already with financial regulations and now a U.S. Supreme Court nominee that also will likely have to move through this summer.
SENATOR INHOFE: Mm-hmm.
MS. CUMMINGS: Do you think that the calendar alone could be your greatest ally in trying to prevent passage of, you know, a cap and trade system and other aspects-
SENATOR INHOFE: Yeah.
MS. CUMMINGS: -of this bill that you don't approve?
SENATOR INHOFE: Yeah, I don't think so, Jeanne, because it's not going to pass, anyway. And frankly, I'd rather bring it up and let us vote on it.
And the most recent development, of course, is that Harry Reid is apparently going to be handling this himself, at least that was what I-as my understanding. And if he does, he has a little bit of a problem there, because that would avoid the Committee system, and there are a lot of Democrats right now that are very upset because they think it should go through the Finance Committee, it should go through the Energy Committee, Environment and Public Works Committee. We have a Committee system. And here's the big problem I think that Harry Reid has and that the Democrats have that are trying to push this: They are trying to emulate the success that they had on the-on Christmas Eve on the-on the government-run healthcare, but people are so outraged, the more they associate this effort with that effort, I think it actually-you're going to have a lot of public opinion just really outraged on this thing.
CHAPTER ONE CLOSE
CHAPTER TWO OPEN
MS. CUMMINGS: Now, the one real new player in the mix here is Senator Lindsay Graham, as you mentioned.
SENATOR INHOFE: No, he's not a new player.
MS. CUMMINGS: Well, he's the new leader in the--in the mix, as a co-sponsor--
SENATOR INHOFE: Well, it's been John McCain--
MS. CUMMINGS: --of the legislation.
SENATOR INHOFE: --in the past.
MS. CUMMINGS: Yes.
SENATOR INHOFE: And he's--I think Lindsay Graham's kind of taken over for him.
MS. CUMMINGS: Exactly. Do you think that Lindsay Graham can bring any Republicans to the vote?
SENATOR INHOFE: Oh, I--you know, I think he--he very well could. He's a very attractive person. I like Lindsay
No, I do not think--yes, he might be able to bring someone, one or two people, in, but when you bring one or two people in and what you have to do to bring them in, you're going to lose five or six on the other side. So, we're talking about net votes, and so I would have to say, Jean, that I don't believe that he's going to be able to increase the net votes.
MS. CUMMINGS: He has said, the price of my participation is expanded drilling, is more favorable treatment of the nuclear industry. Have you been surprised at the concessions that both the Obama White House and the--Senator John Kerry, the Democratic leader on this, and Senator Joe Lieberman who, as an Independent, adds another partisan flavor to it, have already started to talk about, in terms--
SENATOR INHOFE: Well, they talk about it. You're right, that's what they do, they talk about, but they don't do it.
MS. CUMMINGS: Now, there are many conservatives who had been very skeptical of the whole global warming science, which I know you are skeptical of as well, who've thrown in the towel and said, well, it will be good for the earth, and they've kind of left that debate.
How do you feel about carrying on despite the pressure that I'm sure you're under or you feel at times to either just go along or to be quiet?
SENATOR INHOFE: Oh, the pressure has stopped. I think you have it backwards, Jeanne.
So, I started off as a believer until I realized what it was going to cost. Then I found out how the United Nations--this all started back in 1988, the IPCC--how they were cooking the science. And of course,
But I don't--I don't see that the pressure is there. And when you say there have been conservatives who have gone over to the other side, I can't name any, so I don't know that there have been any.
CHAPTER TWO CLOSE
CHAPTER THREE OPEN
MS. CUMMINGS: Do you think that the explosion in West Virginia, in that coal mine--can--will that influence the debate at all in terms of getting people to think, maybe we should be much more aggressive about alternative fuels just because they may be safer and not just cleaner?
SENATOR INHOFE: Well, I think the--the--the very unfortunate disaster that took place in West Virginia--I've read extensively on that, as most of our others have that would be listening to us, and there was--there was not proper precautions, the inspections were not adequate, and we've read all about that, and that's something that the real--what I call the--some of the real good mining operations, they're very careful that something like that couldn't happen.
Yes, that would cause a setback in terms of--of people's opinion on coal, but you got to keep in mind, we're running this country, right now--50 percent of the energy that's generated is coal-fired generation and--and--and there's a movement right now to replace some of that with--with natural gas and, you know, the--you can argue these things both ways, but you still have to generate enough electricity to run America, and that's what people overlook.
I mean, the people who say, yes, we want to shift to green energy--and the--the irony of this is, they always say green energy and we want to low our dependence on--for--on the Middle East. And if you want to lower our dependence in the Middle East, all we have to do is go ahead and exploit our own resources. We're the only country in the world--we--we're at--right now, the CRS came up with a report three months ago--we are number one in the recoverable reserves of oil, gas, and coal, and we're the only country in the world that doesn't do our--use our own resources. If we were to fully use--take all the obstacles away and then do as much as we're doing now and more with Canada, we could be independent from the Middle East, just with the North American continent.
MS. CUMMINGS: So, why don't we do that?
SENATOR INHOFE: Well, we won't do that because the politicians won't let us do that. They stopped us from drilling. They stopped us from getting [inaudible]--now, they're even talking about doing away with hydraulic fracturing, which means--that would be the kiss of death for natural gas. You can't get into tight formations--and that there's no threat there whatsoever. I mean, they've been doing it since 1949 and there's never been a case of any kind of contamination.
So, but you have a lot of extremists out there that really want to make these changes and they're going to continue to try, but it's not like it was just a few years ago. There--there's been a wakeup call in America, and people realize that we have to continue to generate electricity. There may be a day when it can be done all with renewals--I'm for renewals. I'm for geothermal, I'm for everything out there--in fact, we have a lot of wind energy through--right in our--my State of Oklahoma. It's one of the largest wind energy-generating states. So, I'm for all of that. I'm for all of the above, but we have to, today, take care of these problems. If you were to do away with fossil fuels, let's say, next year, we'd be--how would you--how can we generate enough electricity to run the machine called America, and the answer is, we couldn't.