Salazar blasts Bush administration for stalling on offshore renewable energy

Turbine in an off-shore wind farm in the Thames Estuary, Kent, UK. (Photo/phault, Flickr)
Turbine in an off-shore wind farm in the Thames Estuary, Kent, UK. (Photo/phault, Flickr)
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar came out swinging Tuesday at the “foot-dragging” of the Bush administration on offshore renewable energy in favor of a “drill, drill, drill” mentality that put a premium on oil and gas exploration.

“The prior administration was so intent on opening up new areas for oil and gas offshore that it torpedoed offshore renewable energy efforts,” Salazar told reporters at a news conference to announce his new strategy for developing the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS).

Salazar pushed back the comment period on the previous administration’s five-year plan for developing the 1.7 billion acres of the OCS, tacking on an additional 180 days.

After releasing its five-year plan Jan. 16 and having it published in the federal register on Jan. 21, the Bush administration then allowed only 60 days to comment. The new deadline for comment has now been pushed from March to September.

In that time, Salazar hopes to pull together a comprehensive report compiled by the U.S. Geological Survey and the Minerals Management Service that maps all the conventional resources and also incorporates the potential for wind, wave and tidal energy.

Salazar said that as a Colorado senator he helped pass the Energy Policy Act of 2005 that directed the Interior Department to draft rules for developing offshore renewable energy within nine months but that it took the Bush administration three years just to float a proposed rule. And a final rule was never adopted.

“Forgive me for being combative back, but frankly what I think this shows is a dramatic change from the last eight years where you had a one-road highway to energy independence, which was drill, drill, drill,” Salazar said in response to a reporter who questioned what was new in Salazar’s plan.

Salazar went on to say he’s never seen a comprehensive report on all the energy resources available in the OCS, and he expects one from the USGS and the MMS within 45 days. After that he said he’ll convene four regional meetings within 30 days, in key areas such as Alaska, the Pacific Coast, the Gulf Coast and on the Atlantic seaboard, to take input from all the stakeholders.

“The oil and gas industry should not see the Obama administration as their enemy, but what the oil and gas industry and the environmental community and others should see us as is not having any doubt whatsoever that we are committed to having a comprehensive energy plan put together for the United States of America,” Salazar said.

Salazar added that countries such as Great Britain are far ahead of the United States in developing offshore wind energy and that renewables are key to achieving energy independence for the sake of national security and reversing global climate change.

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