Cavuto Vs. Sanders Over Energy Crisis

This is a rush transcript from "Your World with Neil Cavuto," June 12, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: To Capitol Hill, Senate GOP leaders just wrapping up an emergency meeting on gas prices, gas now at a record $4.06 a gallon. They say, drill now. Bernie Sanders says, don't even think about it.

The independent senator from Vermont joins me.

Senator, good to have you. Can you hear me?

REP. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: Well, Neil, first of all, I don't know who told you that I said, don't think about. That is not what I have ever said. I think we should be drilling when it is appropriate.

But I think we have got to take a hard look at the greed of the oil industry, which, for the last couple of years, has enjoyed record-breaking profits. I think we've got to take a look at the role that speculation is playing in driving up oil, as well.

But I have never said, don't drill, as a matter of fact.

Video: Watch Neil's interview with Bernie Sanders

CAVUTO: All right, but you have consistently voted against more drilling, Senator.

SANDERS: I think, where it is appropriate, we should drill. As a matter of fact, there are some 33,000 federal acres of land that's available to the oil companies. If they want to drill there, and it's environmentally appropriate, it's OK.

But I think anyone who thinks that we're going to drill our way out of this problem is wrong. I would say that energy efficiency, moving to sustainable energy long term, is a much more cost-effective way to go.

But, short term, we've got to ask ourselves why, with gas now at over $4 a gallon, year after year, the oil companies are enjoying huge profits, they're not plowing that money back into new exploration. They're buying up their stock. They're giving their executives outrageous compensation packages. That's an issue that has to be looked at, Neil.

CAVUTO: So, if you tax their profits, even assuming you're right — I disagree with you on taxing their profits — but then how are you so sure that that money will go back to people feeling the pain at the pump? Would you put it in a lockbox? What would you do?

SANDERS: Well, that's a good question. And I think we've got to develop a mechanism in one way or another. I mean, one thing you can do is by taxing excess windfall profits on the part of the oil companies.

And I would point out, Neil, that, in the last two years, ExxonMobil has earned, in each year, more money, more profits than any corporation in the history of the world.

You have executives, CEOs at oil companies in several instances who are making compensation packages of $400 million.

CAVUTO: I'm not arguing, Senator — Senator, I'm not arguing they make a lot of money. I'm not even here to go over the fact that, as a percentage of revenues, they're not really making, in the scheme of things, a lot of money.

I am asking you, though, that if you do want to tax them, Jimmy Carter tried this and it didn't really work. How would you make...

SANDERS: Well, whoa, whoa. Hold up, Neil.

CAVUTO: How would you make sure that that money gets to people at the pump?

SANDERS: That's a good question. And one of the ways you can do it is get it back to rebates for people who travel long distances. It's an approach that we have to look at.

But we should be helping people in my state and in rural areas who are just — I mean, all of — a good part of their paycheck is now just being spent on going to and from work. And we're also worried about what home heating oil is going to be in the wintertime.

CAVUTO: But can you do it all, Senator? In other words, if you have voted, as you have in the past, against permitting new oil refineries, against more drilling in ANWR, against some of the efforts that the oil companies want, which is your province and your right — you can't pick and choose here.

Can we do it all? Can we look for more oil here? Can we look for energy alternatives here, and at least see what sticks?

SANDERS: Well, Neil, I think we have to do it all. I don't think there's one simple solution to this problem.

And, in terms of ANWR, what I would tell you, just as an example, according to the Bush administration in 2005, if we drilled in ANWR, in about 20 years, we would reduce the price of gasoline at the pump by about 1 cent a gallon. That's not a huge effort.

I think we need a comprehensive approach. I think energy efficiency - - in a couple of years, if I have anything to say about, we're going to have hybrid — we're going to have plug-in hybrids on the road which will give us 150 miles per gallon.

I think you're going to have solar thermal plants producing a heck of a lot of electricity in the Southwestern part of this country. I think, in terms of energy efficiency, we could save huge amounts of gas and oil.

CAVUTO: So, we can do all of that, right?

My only point, Senator — and I hear Republicans saying, well, we don't want to look at these other things when we have oil here — I think we can do it all. Can't we just look for oil here? Can we look at some of these options that you're considering, and just see what can work?

What invariably separates the two sides is that neither gives in to the other. And I don't see anyone giving in to the other now. I just hear a lot of yapping about not doing stuff.

SANDERS: Well, Neil, I mean, I was very disturbed just the other day when the Republicans filibustered the effort to provide tax credits for wind and solar. And that is just, frankly, pretty crazy. We're only wanting to extend what already exists, and, in the process, create large numbers of jobs as we move away from fossil fuels.

But to answer your question, as I said at the beginning of this program, there are 33 million acres of federal land that's available for drilling. If it's done in an environmentally...

CAVUTO: Where is that land? Where is that land?

SANDERS: It's on federal properties all over the country.


CAVUTO: All right. But I guess the oil companies ought to look at that. I mean, if there's a reason to drill there, and they could make money off it, they'd be drilling there, right?

SANDERS: Well, I would hope so. But on the other hand, what we do know, as you know — as I think you should know — is, a lot of the oil profits are not going into the development of new oil. They're going back to buy back stocks. They're going back to pay their CEOs huge compensation packages.

So, I think we want to take a hard look at the oil companies, but we also, Neil, want to look at speculation.


CAVUTO: But, now, collectively, Senator, the oil industry made $100 billion last year. Do you know how much of that, collectively, went into research, development and alternatives?

SANDERS: I believe a lot less than went back in to buy back their stocks.

CAVUTO: But I will tell you, it was $30 billion. Now, you can argue maybe it should be more, but it's not as if they're just sitting on this dough and letting it pile into their fannies, right?


CAVUTO: I'm not an apologist for them, Senator. I'm just saying, when we vilify one group over another group, we're not really solving anything, right?

SANDERS: No, you're right. And I'm not here to vilify. I'm telling you what I believe to be the case.

If that's correct, then what you are saying is, in the midst of this terrible crisis, 70 percent of their profits did not go back into exploration, but — or to develop sustainable energy.

CAVUTO: All right.

SANDERS: The bottom line is, we need...

CAVUTO: Senator, I want to get you — I want to get you back. Always great having you.


CAVUTO: Thank you for coming.

SANDERS: Thank you very much.


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