Jeremy Alford

Senate candidates spar over oil legislation

by Jeremy Alford

State Treasurer John Kennedy has been taking incumbent U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu to task the past week over her repeated opposition to bills he claims would increase the amount of oil and gas produced domestically. Kennedy, a Republican, said his Democratic opponent should support any and all efforts to increase domestic production, especially with consumer gas prices topping $4 per gallon.

Kennedy says Landrieu joined other Congressional Democrats Friday in blocking a bill that would have lifted the federal ban on Outer Continental Shelf drilling. “Mary Landrieu puts party line politics ahead of doing the right thing for the people,” Kennedy said. “It's the old Washington game of saying one thing and doing another. When Mary Landrieu has a real chance to do something on energy, she refuses to break from the extremists in her own party.”

Landrieu campaign spokesman Scott Schneider that simply isn’t true, since the a vote on the legislation never actually happened. “A trip to would show that Sen. Landrieu voted to restrict oil speculation, which experts have said is responsible for as much as 50 percent of recent increases in gas prices,” Schneider said. “A wide range of experts, including oil executives, consumer advocates and past federal regulators agree that speculation is a significant factor in the current energy crisis."

Kennedy and Landrieu have also come to blows over legislation that could have increased domestic production by 800 million barrels of oil or more each year by allowing western states to grab oil from shale, or sealed rock. In published reports, Landrieu said she voted against the bill at the request of Sen. Ken Salazar, a Colorado Democrat, who supported her earlier efforts to increase Louisiana’s share of offshore royalties by billions of dollars – money that will eventually be directed to coastal restoration and hurricane protection efforts.

Landrieu has also said she had concerns about opening up an area to drilling when the technology might not even exist to heat the shale to the temperature needed to produce oil. In fact, both opponents and proponents agree that no immediate production would come of the bill, at least any time soon. Kennedy, however, contends that politics, among other things, are at play. “(Salazar) did give $7,000 in campaign contributions to Sen. Landrieu,” Kennedy said. “I’m not saying those are connected. I’m just saying it’s a fact.”

Schneider said the attacks amount to nothing more than election year politics and that Landrieu has years of service to back up her stances – and shoot down Kennedy’s claims. "Louisianians know that Sen. Landrieu is a leader in the U.S. Senate on oil and gas exploration,” he said. “It was her bill that opened 8.3 million new acres to oil and gas production in the Gulf of Mexico – the first time in 25 years that portions of the Outer Continental Shelf were opened to energy exploration. The bill also meant $40 billion for Louisiana for coastal restoration and hurricane protection projects."