Public lands being developed for renewable power, Salazar says

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar told a National Press Club audience April 24 in Washington, D.C. that the Obama administration has made great strides toward developing renewable energy on federal lands.

Most of the discussion centered on recent headlines like gasoline prices and the second anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon Gulf oil spill, for instance. Salazar also defended the Obama administration’s highly touted “all-of-the-above” energy strategy, and oil and gas drilling, in which the Interior Department has a major say.

Salazar also touted renewable energy development occurring on large tracts managed by Interiors’ Bureau of Land Management.

“Renewable energy production has doubled over the past three years,” Salazar said. “And on public lands, we’re well on our way to meeting the president’s goal of permitting 10,000 MW of large-scale renewable energy projects by the end of the year,” he said.

At the federal level, Obama policies were given credit for breaking logjams on site development on public lands and waters.

“At the beginning of 2009, not a single, large-scale solar energy project had been approved for construction,” he said. “Offshore, Cape Wind had been a process disaster languishing for eight long years in a process that had no end.”

He said 29 utility scale solar, wind and geothermal projects have been approved on federal lands in the West that will provide over 6,500 MW of clean power. Cape Wind has been approved and an offshore program has been put in place along the Atlantic Coast.

“None of this would have happened if we hadn’t ensured that government reviews are coordinated and done in a timely basis,” Salazar said.

He bemoaned Washington gridlock and the inability of any meaningful energy policy to be adopted. Salazar said public consensus has had produced some progress in renewable energy.

“The states have been bringing in more wind, more solar, more biofuels,” Salazar said.

He cited federal proposals, currently stalled in Congress, to promote development: permanent tax credits and a national clean energy standard.

“There has been great progress in the past three years, from industry, investors, governments, scientists and stakeholders all deserve credit,” he added.

This being political season, Salazar didn’t resist poking fun at “the imaginary, fairly tale world of energy” promoted by administration opponents.

“Every day there’s a plan released to bring back $2 gasoline. Or, you would think there’s a secret agenda out there to shut down energy production,” he said.