Danson on the Hill to Fight 'Drill, Baby, Drill'

The actor urges lawmakers to reinstate the moratorium on offshore oil drilling.

February 11, 2009, 10:09 PM

WASHINGTON, Feb. 11, 2009 -- Actor Ted Danson testified before Congress today, urging lawmakers to reinstate the moratorium on offshore oil drilling.

His testimony came one day after Interior Secretary Ken Salazar ordered a review of a controversial Bush administration plan to open vast tracts of the Outer Continental Shelf to oil and gas drilling.

Danson, a long-time environmental activist who sits on the board of Oceana -- an ocean advocacy group -- spoke with ABC News about the chances of getting the moratorium reimposed, campaigning for Hillary Clinton last year, and what it's like to play "the bad guy" on FX's "Damages."

Q: What brought you to Capitol Hill?

A: The moratorium on offshore oil drilling on our Outer Continental Shelf lapsed last year and I'm very much opposed to that and I came to testify. It's something that I actually had the opportunity to testify about 20 years ago here in Washington. So, here I am again, not quite believing that we are having the same conversation.

Q: Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., the chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, suggested Wednesday that the ship has already sailed -- that Congress is unlikely to reimpose a broad moratorium on offshore drilling.

A: I think he said "may have" set sail -- I take hope in the word "may."

Q: What's your read on the politics of getting the moratorium reimposed?

A: It was a political decision and it was made at a time when fuel prices were high, jobs were getting scarce, and there was a lot of campaign rhetoric, you know, "Drill, Baby, Drill!" and let's not send money over to those countries that support terrorists. All understandable. But when you look at the facts, it would perhaps make pennies difference at the pump. It will not come on-line for another 10-15 years. It's misleading to say to the public, "Jobs are scarce, we need to drill," and not to say, "You will create more jobs by investing in green energy."

Q: Back in August, when gas prices were $4 per gallon, Barack Obama said that he would be willing to compromise his opposition to offshore drilling if that was necessary for a broader overhaul of the nation's energy policy. What's your take on that?

A: The fact that we were opening this whole discussion up -- ending the moratorium -- surprised me. I couldn't believe that. I take a different position. I say absolutely no drilling.

Q: How did you first become involved in this issue?

A: I moved near Santa Monica Bay and there was a fight with Occidental Petroleum to keep them from drilling 60 oil wells right along the ocean, right next to the beach. We won that battle, but we decided that we wanted to do this kind of work. We invested time, energy and money, and created an organization called American Oceans Campaign. That was 20 years ago. Then, seven years ago, when it came time for Oceana to be formed by several foundations, they came to American Oceans Campaign to merge.

Q: You were a big Hillary Clinton supporter last year. You were with her during a lot of her later victories -- states like Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania. What did Hillary learn about running against Obama at the end that she didn't know at the beginning?

A: I am so excited about our president that we have. I am so excited that she is our secretary of state. I know she's excited by the challenge and the work. Probably the economy happened, probably people started hurting and they listened to her message. I think she was very strong on the economy, and so people, I think, responded to that, saw the care that she had.

Q: Everyone remembers the theme song to "Cheers." Is there a place where "everyone knows your name"?

A: Home. My kids know my name. My wife knows my name. No, I don't have a watering hole.

Q: No watering hole?

A: No, we're homebodies. We're so boring.

Q: You now star on FX's "Damages" with Glenn Close. What's it like playing the bad guy?

A: Relaxing. Very relaxing. It's very relaxing to play the bad guy. Doing comedy is a lot of hard work. You can show up drunk, divorced and in a lousy mood, and the camera loves it when you're doing a drama.

This interview was condensed and edited.

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events