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2004 flashback: Dems John Kerry, Bob Graham OK with drilling in ‘deep water’ of gulf

by George Bennett | July 12th, 2010

Graham

Graham

Former Florida Gov. and Sen. Bob Graham, a co-chair of the presidential commission that began hearings on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill today in New Orleans, has a long record of opposing drilling off the coast of Florida.

But in 2004, Graham and Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry took pains to distinguish between politically unpopular drilling off Florida and presumably safer drilling farther away in “the deep water” in the Gulf of Mexico.

Kerry

Kerry

When the two appeared together in Tampa in April 2004, Kerry was asked about drilling.

The Massachusetts Senator gave a long answer typical of what his supporters celebrated as “nuance” and his critics blasted as all-things-to-all-people waffling.

Kerry said he favored drilling “in the right places,” and noted that “The largest unexplored oil field in the world is actually the deep water oil out in the Gulf. Now, there is a capacity to protect what we have today, the protections for the coast of Florida, and still be able to drill in those locations where they’re already permitting, already had the Environmental Impact Study, they already have the leases, and the only reason the drilling isn’t taking place is because it doesn’t pay – it’s not cost effective at this moment in time on the price.”

Republicans — seizing on a report in the University of Florida’s student newspaper that didn’t distinguish between drilling in “the deep water” and drilling closer to Florida’s coast — accused Kerry of favoring close-in drilling. (Before the “Drill, Baby, Drill” summer of 2008, Florida Republicans were nearly unanimous in opposing drilling near Florida’s coast.)

Graham, angling at the time to be Kerry’s running mate, came to the candidate’s defense.

“Senator Kerry clearly distinguished between drilling in the deep water out in the gulf and the sensitive coastline of Florida,” Graham said at the time.

Here’s the complete 2004 story by distinguished Post alum Brian Crowley:

KERRY BACKS DRILLING OFF FLA., GOVERNOR SAYS

Presidential candidate John Kerry nearly slipped on oil Wednesday when Gov. Jeb Bush took the words of a student reporter and used them to accuse the Massachusetts senator of favoring oil drilling off Florida’s coast.

If it had been true it could have been as devastating to Kerry’s chances of winning Florida as threatening to end Social Security. But Kerry’s campaign insisted that the Independent Florida Alligator made an “honest mistake” and that Kerry is a staunch opponent of drilling off Florida’s shores.

But that didn’t stop Bush, who waved a copy of the student-run newspaper in front of reporters in Tallahassee Wednesday and said he couldn’t believe that no one else had reported it.

“What is going on with John Kerry?” Bush asked. “There is probably 10 percent of the people of this state that would support a candidate for higher office that believes what John Kerry believes – I can’t believe this, and I’m not sure why you guys didn’t cover it yesterday. Your papers must have been in the same place the Florida Alligator was.”

President Bush’s campaign sent out a copy of his brother’s remarks.

U.S. Sen. Bob Graham of Florida, a Democrat who is a longtime a champion of the environment, was by Kerry’s side when Kerry talked about drilling Tuesday.

“Senator Kerry clearly distinguished between drilling in the deep water out in the gulf and the sensitive coastline of Florida,” said Graham, who hopes to be Kerry’s running mate. “He said he supports ‘what we have today, the protections for the coast of Florida.’ I have heard him answer this question before, and I know what his position is – he supports the moratoria that we have put in place against drilling off the coast of our state.”

The student paper, which reports on the University of Florida, had quoted Kerry correctly when he said during a campaign event in Tampa Tuesday that he favored oil drilling in the gulf. But three reporters for major Florida newspapers who covered the event said Kerry was talking about existing drilling off other states.

Alligator editor Cameron Ackroyd said the newspaper was sticking by the story of its reporter, Dwayne Robinson, but “we may run a clarification.”

A transcript of Kerry’s remarks was supplied by his campaign. He was answering a question about whether he supported drilling in Alaska:

“Do I support oil drilling? The answer is yes. I support oil drilling in the right places. And we’re going to be drilling oil, ladies and gentlemen, and we’re going to be drilling natural gas, for the next 30, 40, 50 years. I’ve said that as a matter of clarity and certainty in our policy. I’m not against it – we’re going to be doing it. And it makes sense to do it in certain places. Ninety-five percent of the Alaska oil shelf is open for drilling. The Clinton Administration actually put out the largest lease in history for drilling in the Arctic North Slope. But that is different than drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. And there’s a distinction.

“We also have an enormous amount of oil. The largest unexplored oil field in the world is actually the deep water oil out in the Gulf. Now, there is a capacity to protect what we have today, the protections for the coast of Florida, and still be able to drill in those locations where they’re already permitting, already had the Environmental Impact Study, they already have the leases, and the only reason the drilling isn’t taking place is because it doesn’t pay – it’s not cost effective at this moment in time on the price. Though that may be changing, with the prices going up.”

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4 Responses to “2004 flashback: Dems John Kerry, Bob Graham OK with drilling in ‘deep water’ of gulf”

  1. BustedUpGrunt Says:

    Today‚Äôs multiple choice quiz. a)Offshore drill spills on a Florida beach? or, b)Your 19 year old child killed in combat while protecting U.S. access to oil in a far off country? Given immediately available technologies and practical energy alternatives for widespread use to satisfy today’s demand, pick one only.

  2. Nona Says:

    It is incorrect to associate US military involvement with the need to secure oil rights in the Gulf. The Bush regime never once stated that America was going to war in Iraq to secure oil for the US. It was first to prevent WMD, then to overthrow a dictator, then to spread democracy. Soldiers do not need to die to engage in commerce with our Allies in the Middle East. The Middle east holds the majority of oil reserves and are capable of producing it at a fraction of the cost in the US, to the point we must subsidize the industry in the US to make it financially feasible.
    If you make this connection with military involvement in the Middle East to securing Oil Rights it only shows how horrific US policy of the War in Iraq, perpetrated by the Right, has been from the beginning.
    Or can you not remember that far back.

  3. Nona Says:

    While Kerry and Graham thought they supported these policies at a safe distance, we all now realize how far and easily a spill can spread. However, the right has insisted that we drill on every available piece of land and coast refusing to embrace conservation and innovation efforts to curb our dependence on Hydrocarbons. Rather it may be more prudent to go after current Florida Political candidates on the right, such as Putnam, who insist we still drill off Florida Beaches.
    The Right in Florida has a serious credibility issue on Off Shore Oil Drilling and their continuing refusal to pass legislation that will bolster the Green Tech/Clean Tech Movement.

  4. Post the Facts Says:

    Real Reporting: (In Care of the distinguished, Pulitzer-prize winning St. Petersburg Times, published April 22, 2004, “Both Bushes Jump on Kerry’s drilling stance”):

    Even environmentalist supporters who heard Kerry on Tuesday acknowledged scratching their heads after he spoke.

    “He came across sounding equivocal,” said former Audubon Society president Clay Henderson, who sat in the front row.

    Afterward, he said he discussed the drilling comments with Florida Sen. Bob Graham and former Environmental Protection Agency chief Carol Browner. They concluded Kerry meant drilling in deep waters off Louisiana and Texas was acceptable, but not anywhere near Florida. Graham said he had heard Kerry talk about drilling often enough that he knew Kerry distinguished between the deep water gulf and sensitive Florida coastline.

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