National Press Club

Interior Secretary Salazar defends Obama energy policy at NPC luncheon

April 24, 2012 | By Ken Dalecki |

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar

Photo/Image: Noel St. John

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar defended the Obama administration's energy policy at a National Press Club luncheon April 24, insisting that it has an "all of the above" approach to energy development that is the best way to increase the nation's energy security.

Salazar cited the need for oil, gas, nuclear, solar, biofuel, wind, geothermal and other energy sources as necessary to reduce imports and lessen the impact of the kinds of oil-price shocks the country has experienced since the 1970s.

In a speech tinged with election-year politics, the former Colorado senator said the administration's critics are living in a "fairy-tale world" and proposing "bumper- sticker solutions" by suggesting the U.S. can drill its way to energy independence. He was particularly critical of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives for not acting to codify offshore-drilling regulations adopted by the administration since the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, failing to quickly approve a U.S.-Mexico agreement on offshore development along the maritime border, not making tax credits of renewable energy permanent, and not adopting new clean energy standards.

Americans are united in wanting to cut oil imports, lower prices, broaden energy sources, expand offshore development and boost vehicle mileage standards, Salazar said.

While critics contend the administration has been too slow and restrictive in issuing offshore-oil permits, Salazar said two-thirds of the federal offshore lands already leased remain undeveloped and that oil production on federal lands has increased 13 percent since President Barack Obama took office.

Overall natural gas production is at a all-time high and oil production is at its highest level in eight years, he said.

Under Obama, renewable energy production has doubled and oil imports decreased by one million barrels a day in the last year, Salazar said.

The Interior Secretary said critics of the administration's efforts to promote alternative sources of energy are the equivalent of those in Columbus' day who believed the earth was flat. He accused House Republicans of "politicking" instead of working on "real solutions."

The administration has approved 29 commercial-scale solar, wind and thermal projects on public lands whereas none existed before, Salazar said. Production in the Gulf of Mexico has reached pre-BP blowout levels, he added.

The U.S. is much better prepared to quickly deal with any future BP-type offshore oil blowout with containment caps and response resources that were not available in 2010, Salazar said. The nation's higher standards for offshore production are a model for the world, he said.

Oil and gas production has also developed on Indian lands under Obama whereas "the bureaucracy simply wasn't working under the last administration," Salazar said.

Regarding efforts by Shell Oil Company to develop new production off Alaska, Salazar said his department will make a decision "soon" on exploration permits that, if issued, would be "the most cautious in the history of the world."

Questioned about pending federal regulation of fracking techniques used to free vast underground natural gas supplies, Salazar said final details are being worked out and that failure to get it right could be the Achilles Heel for natural gas production. Colorado and Wyoming have worked out procedures that other states could also adopt, he noted.

As for when the earthquake-damaged Washington Monument will reopen, Salazar predicted "in a year out."