Sen. Ben Nelson Calls for 'Energy Summit'

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This is a rush transcript from "Your World with Neil Cavuto," July 7, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

DAVIS ASMAN, GUEST HOST: Oil dropping nearly $4 today, at one point, dipping below $140 a barrel. Is oil coming down because Democrats in Congress are coming around?

Welcome, everybody. I'm David Asman, in for Neil Cavuto.

Top senators are now calling for an energy summit this week. My next guest is among them. He is a Democrat who now supports offshore oil drilling. He's Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska. And he joins us now.

Senator Nelson, what brought you around to this point?

SEN. BEN NELSON, D-NEB.: I — nothing brought me around.

I have never been against drilling. I voted for drilling out in the Gulf of Mexico. I think drilling in the United States makes a lot of sense. We just can't drill ourselves out of this problem. That's what has been my point. We can do some short-term drilling. And that certainly can take some of the pressure off. But that is not going to be the — the full answer to the problem we have today and tomorrow.

ASMAN: Well, Senator, you said you are always for drilling. What about the Destin Dome, where there are apparently 2.6 trillion cubic feet of gas, natural gas, available. And Chevron has been trying to get into it for years, but they blame folks in Congress for preventing them from doing so.

NELSON: Well, you know, there is a lot of blame going around. The blame game is pretty rampant here in Washington. If the oil companies are blaming Congress, I know there are a lot of members of Congress blaming the oil companies.


ASMAN: But what about that specific example? You say you're in favor of drilling. What about that specific example of the Destin Dome, which I'm sure you know about, trillions of cubic feet of gas available? Chevron wants to go for it. And they say you guys are preventing them.

NELSON: They all have a lot of leases right now, David. So, everybody wants to go drill someplace where they don't have a lease and get new leases.

There are all kinds of leases that are out them for them to use. But I would take a look at the Destin Gulf. But I have been supportive of drilling in the Gulf. And there was an article in the Omaha paper yesterday that there's more drilling going on in North Dakota than ever before, that, every time they punch a hole in the ground, they make a new millionaire. And there are more millionaires to go around in North Dakota than there have ever been.

So, it's not just about where you drill. It's about making sure that we're drilling. But the problem has been that too many people think that's the answer.

ASMAN: Well, what about New Jersey and Florida, then, for example? What about Florida and New Jersey?

NELSON: I have been for drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

ASMAN: We're talking about...


ASMAN: Right.

The Gulf of Mexico already — Louisiana has 3,200 oil rigs that are pumping already right off of their shores. But what about new oil exploration and drilling off the coast of Florida and off the coast of New Jersey in the Atlantic?

NELSON: I have always supported that. I think it needs to be done right. I think it has to be done in a safe manner.

But don't confuse me with somebody that is saying, let's not drill. But compare me to the people in complete — and include me in the people who are saying it is not the full answer. We're not going to find the solution at the bottom of the next empty oil well.

But we have to do some of the drilling, both short-term and long-term. But we have got to move way beyond oil as a standard, so that we have alternative fuels as well.

ASMAN: Of course. But we also have to realistic, Senator. And 85 percent of our energy comes from fossil fuels right now. We're not — as much as we all want to go to windmills and all the other things, solar panels, it ain't going to happen overnight.

What about Governor Corzine and others who are of your party who are so far against drilling, and today just came out with another summit that goes in the opposite direction, and wants to continue these prohibitions?

NELSON: Well, they don't answer for me and I don't answer for them.


ASMAN: Well, I know that you don't answer for them, but can you convince them? They are in your party.

NELSON: Well, I don't know.

What I would like to do is talk about the kinds of things we can do and things we can do immediately, as opposed to jumping off on an issue like that.

ASMAN: That is a related issue.

NELSON: There's plenty of drilling that can be done in the Gulf of Mexico that right now that we don't have to worry about New Jersey at the moment. Let's not get ourselves so spread out on so — it is a scatter-gun approach that is going on today. We need the precision of a rifle shot to get ourselves focused on what...


ASMAN: And I'm sure you know this better than anybody, being a politician, is that the American people are fed up with these prices.

And they see oil and gas here at home. They want to drill. We saw a Rasmussen poll the other day that Floridians, Floridians themselves, 61 percent of them, want to drill off of the coast, say that will bring down the price of oil.

So, how much longer can Democrats in your — can folks in your party continue to say no more drilling, no matter what?


NELSON: David, you can make it as partisan as you want. It is not that simple. And you know it. Let's get away from the party talking points and talk about what the problem is.


ASMAN: Look, I'm not for party talking points either. McCain is against drilling in ANWR.

NELSON: Exactly.

ASMAN: I am in favor of drilling in ANWR. I'm in favor of drilling in ANWR.

Nevertheless, the point is, is that it is the Democratic bloc that has prevented most of the offshore drilling in the past. You have got to be honest about that.

NELSON: Well, I'm honest about saying that we're not going to find the solution at the bottom of the next empty oil well. And we can't tell the American people that we're going to drill our way out of this, and we can't let them believe that.

We have to do some drilling. Let's accept the fact that we have to do some drilling. But let's not let that get in the way of all the other things we need to do for the long term.

Take a look at Brazil. They didn't get stuck on the oil standard forever. They moved away from it. And other countries have as well.

ASMAN: But they're drilling — they're drilling offshore right now as we speak, Senator. They have a huge oil find...

NELSON: But not...

ASMAN: ... off of the coast of Brazil. There's nobody there in the political system saying, "We can't drill offshore," there.

NELSON: Well, I don't know whether there is or there isn't.


ASMAN: There isn't. I can tell you, I know Brazil very well.

NELSON: But they also moved — but they also moved away from the oil standard to ethanol a long time ago, 30 years ago.

So what we have to do is make sure that we don't just rely simply on trying to drill our way out of it. I don't know what the problem here is. It's very clear. We got to do some drilling. We also have to be able to move beyond there.

There are thousands of leases held by oil companies today that are not being drilled.

ASMAN: Yes, well...

NELSON: So let's not get ourselves spread out...


ASMAN: ... listen, you're going in the right direction, you're certainly going in the right direction in terms of more drilling as far as the American people are concerned. But they're — they are fed up with these prices, as you know better than anybody, and they want drilling now. So you got to satisfy their urges. I don't know whether...


ASMAN: ... whether McCain or Barack Obama have the answer, but somebody's going to change their mind.

NELSON: Well, that's why we've — that's why Olympia Snowe and then seven or eight have also asked the president and the Congress, the leadership in Congress, to get together to try to have a summit to answer some of the questions. Is it really true that there hasn't been a new refinery in 30 years? Then why? Is it true that even if we wanted to build and we had a permit to build a nuclear plant tomorrow, there aren't that many construction companies around to do it?

There are a lot of unanswered questions, and it can't be left just to drilling. We have to get the answers to these other questions or we're going to be stuck in the same problem 10 years from now or more.

ASMAN: Well, a summit certainly sounds like a step in the right direction as well, talk things over.

Senator Ben Nelson, thank you very much for coming in. I appreciate it.

NELSON: Thank you, David.


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