On the Next Secretary of Interior

By December 16, 2008Energy

News reports are telling us that President-elect Obama’s choice as the next Secretary of Interior is Senator Ken Salazar (D-CO). From the AP:

Salazar is expected to balance the protection of natural resources while tapping the nation’s energy potential – an approach that Obama has said he wants.

He co-sponsored a bill in Congress to create a new land conservation system under the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management for permanently protecting 26 million acres of national monuments, wilderness areas and wild and scenic rivers.

The legislation died during the lame duck session of Congress after the November election.

Salazar, 53, opposed drilling in the Artic National Wildlife Refuge and objected to the Bush administration’s efforts to lease Western lands for oil shale development. It will be up to the Obama administration whether or not to go ahead with leasing.

Hmmm. Is “balance” the right word to describe “permanently protecting” — read, put off limits — 26 million acres to energy development? By itself, no, but Salazar was also a sponsor of the bipartisan “Gang of 10 16″ energy plan, a serious attempt earlier this year that featured positive steps for energy development.

You can read Salazar’s statements and news releases on energy and conservation at his Senate website here.

Meanwhile, let’s complete the citation of API’s release on the importance of domestic energy resources now off-limits, “Off-limits US oil, gas worth $1.7 trillion to government: study,” summarizing a new study from  ICF International:

This study underscores how the oil and natural gas industry can enhance America’s energy security and help solve our economic problems by increasing production of our nation’s vast oil and natural gas resources,” said API President and CEO Jack N. Gerard. “The U.S. oil and natural gas industry supports more than six million jobs, and more drilling for oil and natural gas will mean more energy for America, more well-paying jobs, and trillions of dollars of much-needed revenues that will help federal, state and local governments pay for critical services.”

According to the ICF study, U.S. crude oil production would rise by 36% by 2030 if development is permitted in the studied areas of the Outer Continental Shelf, ANWR and the Rockies and domestic natural gas production would rise by 10%. By 2030, this activity would create 160,000 jobs.

Finally, an observation from a knowledgeable observer of intramural, bureaucratic fights: The Secretary of Agriculture and Secretary of Interior usually have immense influence over energy policy, making the jobs more significant than they would be otherwise. But with Carol Browner coordinating the White House environment and energy efforts, the agencies’ authority will be less. They’re still important, no doubt, but USDA and Interior will be less attractive posts for those interested in energy policy under an Obama Administration.

Leave a Reply