Today, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar spoke at the National Press Club about President Obama's "all of the above" strategy for domestic energy development, including the expansion of domestic oil and gas production, and initiatives to harness renewable and alternative energy sources. His remarks, as prepared for delivery, are below.
Remarks to the National Press Club
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Secretary of the Interior Salazar
Hello, everyone. It's an honor to be here today.
Thank you, President Werner, for the kind introduction.
Now, it seems that the conventional wisdom says that our nation is deeply divided over energy policy.
And if you were to pick up a newspaper, it would certainly appear that way. Almost every day, you have someone putting out a three point plan for two dollar gasoline, or claiming that there's a secret agenda out there to shut down energy production.
But the reality is that, overwhelmingly, Americans agree on energy. If you get beyond Washington, and you talk to folks directly, you hear the same things, over and over, about what our energy challenges are, and how we must tackle them.
Americans want to cut our reliance on imported oil. They know that a lot of factors affect gas prices -- including world markets and international events -- and that, unfortunately, there's no silver bullet in the near term.
Americans agree that we need to broaden our energy portfolio. They support conventional energy, but in state after state they are voting to bring more solar, wind, geothermal, and biofuels into the mix.
Americans want to see continued expansion of offshore drilling, but they also believe that you need to choose the right places and enforce strong safety standards.
And, by large margins, people see stronger fuel economy standards for vehicles as a good thing. The proof is in the cars they are buying. For the first time ever, GM in March sold more than 100,000 cars that make over 30 miles to the gallon. It's remarkable: 40 percent of GM's monthly sales are now in fuel efficient vehicles.
Still, there is a growing divide in the energy debate in America. But the divide is not among ordinary Americans, it is between some people here in Washington.
It's a divide between the real energy world and the imagined energy world.
To be sure, the imagined energy world is an invention of a campaign year. It's a place where you hear cries of "drill, drill, drill,' notwithstanding the fact that most of the OCS resources are open for business, and two-thirds of the public lands that industry has leased are sitting idle.
It's a place where up is down and left is right where oil shale seems to be mistaken for shale oil where record profits justify billions in subsidies and where rising U.S. production and falling dependence on foreign oil somehow add up to bad news.
One Member of Congress went so far as to say that the jobs from solar, wind, and biofuels are somehow "phony.' That if the technology is new, it's somehow not real. The President rightly pointed out that if these folks were around when Columbus set sail, they'd be charter members of the Flat Earth Society.
The good news is that this imagined energy world is actually very small. I think you can actually find its edge when you walk out of the House of Representatives.
Now, let's talk about reality. Without question, we face serious energy challenges in this country. Gas prices are taking a real toll on family budgets. Our economy is still vulnerable to the ups and downs of world oil markets.
But because so many Americans want a results-oriented, all-of-above approach to energy, our nation has made remarkable progress over the last three years.
Industry, government, investors, scientists, and stakeholders all deserve credit.
On the broadest scale, U.S. gas production is at an all-time high and oil production is at an eight-year high. Total oil production from federal lands and waters has increased 13 percent during the first three years of this Administration, compared to the last three years of the previous Administration.
America's dependence on foreign oil has gone down every single year since President Obama took office. Thanks to booming U.S. oil and gas production, more efficient cars and trucks, and a world-class refining sector that last year was a net exporter for the first time in 60 years, we have cut net imports by ten percent -- or a million barrels a day -- in the last year alone.
Renewable energy production has doubled over the last three years. And on public lands, we are well on our way to meeting the President's goal of permitting 10,000 megawatts of large-scale renewable power by the end of the year.
All of these trends show the gathering strength of America's energy economy. But they also reflect the practical, problem-solving mindset that we are bringing to bear at all levels of decision-making.
Let me give you three concrete examples that help illustrate the problem-solving approach to energy that I believe is the hallmark of this Administration.
First -- and this story is well known -- let's look at offshore oil and gas safety.
Deepwater Horizon shook Americans' confidence in offshore energy development. Witnessing oil spew into the Gulf of Mexico for 87 days could have easily prompted the public to say: "no more.'
We had to move quickly and aggressively to strengthen safety standards and environmental protections. We had to ensure that companies drilling in the deepwater were prepared to deal with a blowout. And we had to divide the three conflicting missions of the Minerals Management Service into strong and separate agencies.
Industry, for its part, has answered our call to raise the bar. Today, drilling activities in the Gulf are back to pre-spill levels. And the U.S. is now positioned as a global leader in offshore oil and gas safety. That's good for domestic production and good for the industry as a whole.
A second area where you can see the benefits of our practical, results-oriented approach is in oil and gas leasing.
When we took office, the onshore oil and gas leasing program was in disarray. Nearly half of all leases on public lands were protested. Projects with thousands of wells were stuck in litigation. And at the end of 2008, the previous Administration even offered some areas near Utah national parks for drilling. The program had become highly divisive and unnecessarily controversial.
Over the last three years, we have worked to restore certainty and reduce conflict.
Our onshore leasing reforms have helped bring the public into the leasing process earlier, so that fewer leases end up in court.
We've worked to resolve the controversies on some of the largest oil and gas projects in the West, including for more than 3,500 new wells on Anadarko's Greater Natural Buttes project in Utah.
Through an interagency team led by Deputy Secretary David J. Hayes, the U.S. government is -- for the first time ever -- closely coordinating its energy permitting activities in the Alaska, to good result.
And we are working to deploy a new system for processing drilling permits on BLM lands. We expect to reduce permitting times by two-thirds.
There is a common theme to all of this: tackling a problem head-on, getting it done right, and moving on to the next challenge.
The final area I'll briefly touch on is renewable energy.
As of early 2009, not a single large-scale solar energy project had been approved for construction on public lands in this country. Offshore, Cape Wind had been languishing for 8 long years.
Since 2009, however, we have authorized 29 utility-scale solar, wind and geothermal projects on public lands.
If built, these projects will provide 6,500 MW of clean power for 2.3 million homes, and create thousands of jobs.
We've also approved Cape Wind's permit and have built, from the ground-up, an offshore wind leasing program for our country.
None of this would have happened if not for the teams of people we have deployed help make sure government reviews are coordinated and timely.
I am very proud of what we have done on the new energy frontier, and I believe it will be a lasting legacy for America.
I began my remarks by suggesting there is a widening gap between the real energy world -- on which we have made so much progress over the last three years -- and the imagined energy world of this campaign year.
Now, I want to be realistic about what we can expect from this House of Representatives, but I do think there is some low-hanging fruit that should and could be passed even this year.
I will mention just three items, knowing that there are many more.
First, Congress should move immediately to codify the reforms we have implemented since the Deepwater Horizon disaster. It's inexcusable that Congress has yet to enact one piece of legislation to make drilling safer.
Second, we are working with the Congress on legislation needed to implement an agreement we reached with Mexico to open transboundary oil and gas reservoirs for development. The agreement would terminate a moratorium on drilling along our maritime boundary and provide a framework for new exploration and development in an area the size of Delaware. We estimate the area contains up to 172 million barrels of oil and 304 billion cubic feet of natural gas. The Mexican legislature has already approved the agreement, and we shouldn't wait to act on it either.
Third, Americans want to see Congress implement policy that makes for a long-term, sustainable renewable energy economy. This includes making tax credits for renewable generation permanent and refundable so there's financial certainty and so that we don't face the boom and bust that we saw in the 1970's with solar power. And we need a Clean Energy Standard that will provide the signal investors need to move billions of dollars of capital off of the sidelines and into the clean energy economy.
Now, is it likely that Congress will rise to the challenge this year? It's hard to say. I think that those who have stood in the way of solutions are going to find the ground shifting under their feet.
The energy world is changing, with or without them. Whether it's our oil and gas technology, our solar power plants, or our auto manufacturers, the pace of American innovation is staggering. The U.S. is determined to lead in the new energy world.
So it's no longer a question of whether you support renewable energy or conventional energy, or whether you favor the environment or the economy. The American people have decided to take an all-of-the above approach.
If there is a choice to be made still, it is whether you are going to be a part of that bright and promising energy future, or whether the politics of the moment are going to leave you behind.