Q&A with Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry

Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and coauthor of a major climate and energy bill, discussed the chances of the bill clearing Congress this year at a May 26 Monitor Breakfast.

Michael Bonfigli/Special to The Christian Science Monitor/File
Sen. John Kerry acknowledged at a May 26 Monitor Breakfast that the Gulf oil spill may make Congress less inclined to pass his energy/climate bill, which calls for new offshore drilling.

Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and is coauthor of pending major energy and climate change legislation. The former Democratic nominee for president was guest speaker at the May 26 Monitor breakfast in Washington, D.C.

On the American Power Act legislation he has co-written with Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I) of Connecticut:

"The American Power Act is the single biggest economic transformational opportunity that we have to move into the largest market in the world.... The market we are looking at in energy – efficiency, clean energy, alternative, renewable – ... is a $6 trillion market and it has 6 billion users. It is really the mother of all markets.... Right now, China, India, Brazil, Mexico, other countries ... are moving much more rapidly than the United States to exploit those markets."

On whether the Gulf oil spill will make Congress less inclined to pass his energy/climate bill, which calls for new offshore drilling:

"I disagree.... We are not going to stop drilling in the Gulf tomorrow, folks. Let's be realistic. There are 48,000 wells out there. One of them went sour. About 30 percent of our transportation fuel comes from the Gulf. You think Americans are going to suddenly stop driving to work tomorrow?... Not going to happen."

On whether energy/climate legislation will clear Congress this year:

"We may not get enough people to get out of the election fear factor this year, but this isn't going away. And we are going to stay on it."

On US relations with Russia:

"Russia is in a very different position from where it was during the ... Bush years, where they were riding pretty high on their energy income and their economic resurgence.... The leadership of [President Dmitry] Medvedev and [Prime Minister Vladimir] Putin actually is progressive.... There is a better dialogue taking place and there is a convergence of interests, which in my judgment help to keep us together."

On the need for action in the Middle East:

"What keeps striking me is the criticality of our getting something done quickly.... The population in a lot of those countries is going to double in the next 20 years, and already some of those countries are turning out hundreds of thousands of young people with no jobs.... The frustration level, the impatience level, is growing, and that is why it is so imperative for us to push the peace process and to recognize this moment, because the demographics are moving against us and the window for a two-state solution [to the Palestinian issue] is closing."

On current national challenges:

"What concerns me most about Washington and the Congress right now is that we are sidestepping a lot of important choices even as we have made historic progress ... notwithstanding the most obstructionist partisanship that I have seen in the entire 26 years I have been here."

On the mood of the American public:

"It is an anger that is directed at a number of different things. It is directed at the sense that Washington is not responding. It is an anger that grows out of people's change-of-life status, incomes have been reduced.... It is legitimate, completely legitimate, but not completely organized or focused in the sense that the very same people who say, 'Get the big government out of my life' [also] want their Medicare."

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