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Boston Herald - John Kerry Sees Divine Dilemma

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Boston Herald - John Kerry Sees Divine Dilemma

Peter Gelzinis
Boston Herald Columnist

It hasn't hit us yet . . . not really. It's still about hot fun in the summertime. Yeah, sure, we're a little annoyed by how much it costs to drive to the beach, but thanks to John McCain, we can all laugh at Paris Hilton's answer to the energy crisis, delivered in a designer bathing suit from a chaise lounge at a Beverly Hills hotel.

But the closer we get to the first frost, the more we are going to realize that the next president (whoever he is) won't be able to help us, and the current lame duck will already be halfway to his ranch in Crawford, Texas.

The sting we've been feeling at the gas pumps is small potatoes compared to the assault and battery waiting for us by the oil tank in our cellars. And by Inauguration Day in early January, we will already be at least a couple of oil deliveries deep into the winter.

The fortunate among us will find a way to cough up half or three-quarters of our monthly mortgage payment to stay warm. As for the rest of us:

"More than a million people, many of them seniors," Sen. John Kerry was saying yesterday, "will be forced into making some very painful choices: Do they skip a rent payment for a couple of months to pay for the heat? Do they cut back on the food they buy so they can pay their gas bill?"

Right now, the discussion about an energy policy is still a matter of political style points. John Kerry says that both Barack Obama and John McCain should be talking in far more urgent and concrete terms.

Kerry fears that the approaching fall and early winter could spawn a crisis of Katrina-like proportions. It would be different from Katrina in that the damage would occur slowly over time. But the overall effect, especially here in the Northeast, could be just as devastating.

"Think of how many small local oil companies are already carrying huge costs from last winter," Kerry said, "companies on the verge of bankruptcy waiting on payments from last year."

Kerry, joining with his Republican colleague from Maine, Sen. Olympia Snowe, has proposed a $2.5 billion grant program for the delivery and implementation of a fuel subsidy program. He says that the five biggest oil companies should be a part of this effort, but he is not holding his breath for that to happen, despite the record profits they continue to pull down.

In a perfect world, John Kerry would like to see his bipartisan proposal acted on before the first frost. But we happen to live in a political world. And the question is: Will the two contenders for the presidency put aside their respective vaudeville routines long enough to vote on something that will affect millions of people before either one of them moves into the White House?

Of course, we could all pray that our leaders see the light. But right now, you've got a perfectly ecumenical mix of pastors, priests and rabbis in these parts wondering if and/or how they will be able to pay their congregations' heating bills this winter.

Think of it as the divine dilemma of all those cathedral ceilings and no solar panels. Various houses of worship will be looking for ways - divine and otherwise - to pay the oilman.

Just about a month from now, summer comes to its unofficial end with the Labor Day weekend, and this endless campaign for president kicks into overdrive. John Kerry thinks that both candidates have no choice but to act now and help lead the way to avert a looming crisis.

Ah, but then, one of the advantages of not running for president is that you can speak with nothing but the best interests of your constituents at heart. You no longer have to worry about being rabbit-punched by swift boaters or distracted by a Hollywood truffle like Paris Hilton.

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