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CNBC Capital Report Transcript

Location: Phoenix, AZ

May 18, 2004 Tuesday

HEADLINE: Governors Bill Owens and Janet Napolitano discuss rising gas prices



MURRAY: All right. Thank you very much. Governor Bill Owens of Colorado, thanks for being with us.

Let's turn now to Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano, a Democrat, who joins us tonight from Phoenix.

Governor Napolitano, thanks for being with us. You were part of a conference call, I understand, today talking about the Bush policies on gasoline. Can you really blame President Bush for these high gas prices?

Governor JANET NAPOLITANO (Democrat, Arizona): You know, I think there are a lot of reasons for these high gas prices. What we can blame the administration for is the lack of any short-term or long-term strategy on how to deal with it and the lack of willingness to explore the structure of the gasoline industry in this country-why we have so few refineries. And they are making record profits even now in the face of unprecedented price increases. What we need to do is on the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, not in terms of taking petroleum out of the reserve-that's not what John Kerry is saying. What he's saying is why not consider diverting some fuel in the future temporarily until we get some control over these price spikes.

MURRAY: Well, we'll get back to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in a minute. But when you say the president has no strategy, the president came into office, one of the very first things he did was set up a panel under the vice president to talk about our energy needs, made a long list of proposals. And the problem has not been that the president didn't have proposals. It's been that Congress hasn't passed any of them.

Gov. NAPOLITANO: Well, the Congress is-last time I looked it's controlled by the president's party, and they haven't been able to pass an energy bill. And the end result is that the president has nothing to say to the governors of the states. Our people are hurting. Our states are hurting because of this pocketbook issue. It's not a Democrat or Republican issue; it's a pocketbook issue. And when we wrote to the president, said, 'Can you look into this? Can we have a sense of where we're headed? What can we plan for?' we got back pablum in response.

MURRAY: Yeah. Now the White House and the Bush-Cheney campaign point out that Senator Kerry over the course of his career has voted on a number of occasions to raise gasoline taxes. So why would people be any better off with higher gasoline taxes than higher oil prices?

Gov. NAPOLITANO: Well, I think that, you know, that was 10 years ago, and times have changed. And the fact of the matter is that taxes is not the issue here. It's supply and it's demand and it's what a short-term plan is and what a long-term strategy is to start reducing our domestic reliance on foreign oil. And the fact of the matter is that if you drive around Phoenix, Arizona, today, on average you're paying $2.20 for a gallon of gas, and in an automobile-dependent community like ours, that's really hurtful.

MURRAY: Is it really hurtful? I mean, $2.20--they pay $6 a gallon in England. We pay $6 a gallon for Perrier water. Are we making too much of this?

Gov. NAPOLITANO: Yeah, we're not talking Perrier water here. We're talking about fuel that people need in their cars to get to work, to get to school, to go to the doctor. We're talking about something that's cash out of people's pockets at a time when wages have not gone up, when there isn't any help for health care or anything else. And now we've dumped gasoline on top of everything else with no strategy, no plan on how to get control of this.

MURRAY: Final quick question. You're sometimes mentioned as a running mate for Senator Kerry. You interested in that?

Gov. NAPOLITANO: You know, I'm interested in being the governor of Arizona.

MURRAY: Yeah, all right. We'll keep asking, though. Thank you very much, Governor Janet Napolitano of Arizona. Thanks for being with us.

Gov. NAPOLITANO: OK. Thank you.

Copyright 2004 CNBC, Inc.

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