Transcript: Sen. Durbin @ Neil Cavuto

Senator [tag]Dick Durbin[/tag] (D-IL) was on [tag]Neil Cavuto[/tag]’s [tag]Your World[/tag] yesterday afternoon.

Ian has the video here.

Lorie’s got a post up on it too…

Cavuto: Democrats taking more swipes at President Bush’s gas plan, capitalizing on ample public anger over rising prices at the pump. And now it’s getting personal.

{videoclip}
[tag]Hillary Clinton[/tag]: We are one accident or one terrorist attack away from oil at a hundred dollars a barrel, not just seventy-five. We have no leadership…
{end videoclip}

Cavuto: Democrats are calling for the rollback of five billion dollars in subsidies granted to oil companies. House Minority Leader [tag]Nancy Pelosi[/tag] also going after oil executives citing Quote [T]heir obscene record profits and immoral salaries.

Republicans now firing back accusing Democrats of being obstructionist by blocking drilling in [tag]ANWR[/tag]. The RNC also pointing out that [tag]Harry Reid[/tag] and Nancy Pelosi, the two Democrat leaders voted not once, but several times to hike the federal gas tax, and on and on we go.

Welcome everybody, glad to have you. I’m Neil Cavuto, this is Your World.

Are lawmakers more focused on political gain in all of this or on solving the nation’s gas problem? Let’s ask Democratic Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois. Senator Durbin, thanks for coming.

Durbin: Good to be with you.

Cavuto: What do you make of Hillary Clinton’s remark that we’re one event away from hundred dollar oil? Is that a scare tactic, or is there something to what she said?

Durbin: If you go to the business journals and ask them, is $75 the ceiling for the price of a barrel of oil? they say no, there’s no end in sight. There’s nothing to hold it from going even higher. I think what Senator Clinton said is a fact. If there is, God forbid, some emergency, or some tragedy, we could see the price of a barrel of oil go up dramatically.

Cavuto: Alright, so this zeal about trying to do something, you know you can cast blame, I guess, on both parties Senator, Democrats didn’t do much about this when Bill Clinton was in office. Both parties sort of lagged around on it and only respond when we get these spikes. Who’s to say now either party is going to get anything done?

Durbin: Well, let me suggest though, that when President Bush was elected President, in the year 2000, that at that moment in time in November the average price of a gallon of gasoline was a dollar and a half. Today it’s almost twice that amount and so, under his watch, we’ve seen a dramatic upsurge in the cost of oil. It’s forced airlines into bankruptcy…

[Uh, Senator Durbin, airlines were forced into bankruptcy in the past 6 years because of the price of oil? – I take it you think that 9/11 had absolutely nothing to do with it? That union demands had nothing to do with it? That poor management had nothing to do with it? That defined benefit plans had nothing to do with it? – Ed.]

Durbin: …it’s moved a lot of farmers near bankruptcy. And it’s really put a hardship on families and businesses, the likes of which we’ve never seen.

Cavuto: Are you blaming…

Durbin: …at the same time…

Cavuto: Wait a minute Senator, are you blaming him for that?

Durbin: I can just tell you, if I can finish, at the same time, the President was pushing his energy policy. It was Vice President Cheney’s inspiration that came up with an energy policy signed by President Bush last August. It hasn’t even been in effect for a year, and since it was signed, the cost of home heating oil and natural gas in the midwest and price of gasoline have gone up dramatically.

[Congress didn’t have anything to do with that? President Bush just signed it with no input from Congress? – Ed.]

Durbin: So if this is their energy policy, it is not working well. And I think the President has to accept some of the responsibility for that.

Cavuto: Would you and your party accept responsibility, sir, for the fact that in the mid 1990’s we had a chance to look into tapping oil in ANWR and we didn’t. That had we done so then, we could be getting oil from that region now. And at least alleviating this crunch we’re in.

Durbin: Neil, I just love this magic bullet – if we could just drill in an Alaskan wilderness area all our prayers would be answered – all of the production out of ANWR, which would start in about 10 years…

[would be NOW if drilling had started in the mid-90’s – Ed.]

Durbin: …for the next 10 years in production is the equivalent of six months’ energy supply for America. It is not the answer to our prayers.

Cavuto: But let’s not limit to there, right Senator. What if we tap wherever we can find oil here, so we rely less on it over there? What’s wrong with that?

Durbin: Let me come up with a radical suggestion. Why aren’t we talking about conservation and fuel efficiency? Why aren’t we talking about automobiles and trucks that have more fuel efficiency than the ones we drive today? Why aren’t we talking about alternative sources of fuel? Whether it’s alcohol fuels or biodiesel, why do you always have to go to the point where you want to push the envelope on the environment?

Cavuto: Well, you know, Senator, I would say touche to you. Open all those ideas. But what I typically hear from your party is that resistance to looking for oil elsewhere in this country and Republicans who are equally resistant to some of these conservation measures, you’re quite right to point that out. But I don’t hear you guys coming together on this issue and so I hear a lot of demagoguery by the way on both parties’ parts.

Durbin: Let me just say this. I am for environmentally responsible drilling. If you want to drill, oil or gas, at the expense of our national natural legacy and heritage, I’m against it. If you want to jeopardize the air that we breathe in this country, or the water we drink, I’m against it.

[Then you’re against everything Sen. Durbin. Can’t produce any energy without affecting the air, water, etc. – you can try to mitigate the effects, but they exist. Everywhere, every time. – Ed.]

Durbin: But I think that we can come up with energy sources, environmentally responsible sources, and then we have to accept some personal responsibility. To buy more fuel efficient cars and trucks, to start moving toward wind power, solar power, geo-thermal, alternative fuels, things which have been dismissed with the back of the hand by this administration which was smitten with the oil company interests. That has to change.

Cavuto: Although to be fair to this administration, it was pursuing ethanol when your party poo-pooed it. I guess with the blame again sir, we go back and forth.

Durbin I beg your pardon! I beg your pardon on ethanol!

Cavuto: On ethanol..

Durbin: I’ve been Chairman of the Alcohol Fuels Caucus in the House and in the Senate.

Cavuto: So, so when we had this push and we had this push for alternative energy are you saying now that you would be open to explore oil in other regions of this country if the President were to give in on some of the, maybe raising the CAFE standards and some of this other stuff. Do we have common ground there?

Durbin: Remember what I said? Environmentally responsible exploration. I just don’t think that we should assume that we are so dependent of heavy SUV’s that get 10 and 12 miles a gallon that we are going to go drilling in a wilderness area that President Eisenhower set aside over 50 years ago. That to me is an act of desperation.

Cavuto: But do you think Senator, do you think though with your zeal to save the environment and some of these blended fuels that we have to have to meet those new environmental requirements, the best of intentions you’re the one who’s gouging Americans at the pump. They’re paying higher prices for that

Durbin: I beg your pardon…

Cavuto: …environmentally blended standard fuel.

Durbin: No sir. Let me tell you. You know Neil, what you haven’t mentioned in the whole show? Oil company profits. Why isn’t that part of your conversation? If Exxon-Mobil has now braken [sic] broken all records in terms of corporate profits, if their CEO is giving a retirement gift of 400 million dollars. Doesn’t that…

{some crosstalk}

Cavuto: So when crude oil… Let me ask you this Senator, when crude oil goes up. Senator, Can I ask you this? When crude oil goes up, and what they produce is something based on that crude oil, it’s not a mystery their profits go up. So you’re not saying, you’re not against the profit they’re making, or are you?

Durbin: Neil, Neil, I’m not for nationalizing oil if that’s what you’re suggesting.

Cavuto: Then what are you for?

Durbin: But there’s no correlation between the increase in the price of a barrel of oil and what we’re paying at the pump. And if you want to know why, take a look at corporate profit of the oil companies. They’re making money hand over fist.

[and their stockholders are happy – Ed.]

Cavuto: Would you tax those profits? Would you tax those profits?

Durbin: Absolutely I would.

Cavuto: Above and beyond …

{crosstalk}

Cavuto: Just like Jimmy Carter did in the 1970’s? The same thing.

Durbin: … absolutely. well… But I want to tell you something. A windfall profits tax would say to these oil companies once and for all you can’t rip us off at the pump day in and day out for no good market reason without a penalty and the money should go back directly to consumers who are paying the outrageous prices for gasoline.

[Actually, Mr. Durbin, a windfall profits tax sends a message to ALL businesses that they shouldn’t really put forth much of an effort to be efficient, to reduce costs, etc. Why should they? If they make what “somebody” decides is a windfall profit, they’ll have to pay out the nose for it. – so all you end up with is prices the same and fewer jobs. – Ed.]

Cavuto: Senator, do you know how much – out of curiosity – is built into a gallon of gasoline, the profits of the oil companies? Do you know what the average is?

Durbin: Well, let me see. Exxon-Mobil – what did they make in three months? It was 10 billion dollars if I’m not mistaken….

{crosstalk}

Cavuto: Senator, maybe you could, maybe you could answer my question. It’s about 9 cents. Do you know how much taxes are Senator? About 50 cents.

Durbin: Let me tell you…

Cavuto: Don’t you think you should be more focused on the tax gouging than necessarily on the profit gouging?

Durbin: How do you explain their profits? How do you explain their profits after taxes? You’re ignoring …

[Maybe their profits are explained by the fact that people are paying the price that is being asked. Market forces Mr. Durbin. Sure, we’d be willing to pay less – wouldn’t we all, for just about anything? People would stop paying the price asked if it were really too high, decreasing demand and creating a new equilibrium point. – Ed.]

Cavuto: Senator, I’m asking you simply. Are you ignoring the taxes?

Durbin: No, I’m telling you…

Cavuto: Would you roll back those taxes?

Durbin. No. Let me tell you… You look at the traffic congestion in America and the need for mass transit. You want to cut the source of funding to deal with that congestion? You’re wrong. We have to have taxation of users of our roads in order to keep them safe, and to keep them modern and in order to build mass transit. Neil, you can’t walk away from that.

Cavuto: So at 50 cents a gallon, the taxes are okay. The 9 cent profit that’s not okay.

Durbin: Oh, stop the 9 cents. Talk about Exxon-Mobil’s record profits my friend. 400 million dollars for their CEO. Aren’t you a little embarrassed by that?

Cavuto: Are you worried though Senator that you’re nixing this argument. That when people look at what’s being paid for a gallon of gasoline, the problem, the oil companies are no saints, but you know what Senator? I think you’re a bigger sinner. Because it’s the tax gouging that’s killing Americans, not necessarily the price of the crude.

Durbin: Neil, you won’t even answer my question. 400 million dollars for the CEO of Exxon-Mobil after the most profitible quarter in the history of American business. And you won’t even address that?

[Senator Durbin – I think you just answered your own question. Most profitible quarter in American business history. – Bonus for CEO. – makes sense. – Ed.]

Cavuto: Senator, just answer me this, just answer this…

Durbin: To subsidize …

Cavuto: So Senator, let me answer. I’m no apologist for the oil companies. I think you know that. When they were losing money,

Durbin: I’m not sure…

Cavuto: Wait a minute, wait a minute… when they were losing money and they were laying off workers and they were shutting down plants, you were doing nothing to encourage refineries. Now that they’re making money, they’re the evil guys? And you’re not even acknowledging the problem with taxes and you’re saying that they’re the bad guys. So Senator, I’m just asking you, who’s zooming who?

Durbin: Let me just tell you Neil, if the only tool you own is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. From where you’re sitting every problem is about the goverment. The goverment messed it up again. Guess what? It’s possible the private sector’s gouging us. It’s possible they’re price fixing. It’s possible that they have these repracious profits at the expense of average businesses and farmers and families and you’ve got to accept it. It just may not be the government’s fault Neil.

Cavuto: And it might also be a strong global economy in China and in India. And our own economy doing well. You would acknowledge that something called supply and demand is also behind this and not just some evil oil companies.

Durbin: Oh, I sure would. Absolutely. There is an element of supply and demand but lets be very conscious of the need of this country to move toward more energy independence. Do you know when Maria Cantwell of Washington my fellow senator, offered an amendment to move us toward more energy independence on the last energy bill it failed. The Republican side wouldn’t support it. To set a goal for America to reduce its dependence on foreign oil by forty percent I wish we could call that amendment again today.

[Senator, you only say that Ms. Cantwell’s amendment would set a goal for America to reduce its dependence on foreign oil by forty percent. That really doesn’t tell me anything at all. What was in Ms. Cantwell’s amendment? What was the goal? Was it reasonable? How was the goal to have been achieved? Was that reasonable? Is there, perhaps, a reason for the Republicans’ non-support other than “evil Republicans”? – Ed.]

Cavuto: I wish we could get something done today. Senator Dick Durbin, I appreciate your coming just the same.

Durbin: Always a pleasure.

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