Interior Secretary Salazar has decided that America has serious energy needs - needs which must be addressed through an emergency effort to activate new sources quickly. Is this a sudden move to expedite offshore drilling - and reduce America's dependence on foreign oil? Not quite.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on Tuesday said his department would propose regulatory changes to simplify and speed the leasing process for wind energy development off the Atlantic coast. In addition, the department will work aggressively to process applications to build transmission lines to move the electricity produced by offshore wind farms to consumers, he said at a news briefing in Baltimore with officials from Maryland and Delaware.
The proposed changes are the result of lessons the department learned in implementing the controversial Cape Wind lease off the coast of Massachusetts earlier this year, a process that took eight years. Salazar described the lease, which is expected to power 200 homes, as a "historic milestone in America's renewable energy future." But he said it was clear federal officials needed to make the permitting process more efficient if they are to realize the Obama administration's goals of harnessing the economic and environmental benefits of producing energy from the strong and steady winds that characterize much of the Atlantic coast.
Through the accelerated leasing process, led by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, the department could issue new leases by the end of 2011.
But while the administration is rushing to license offshore wind farms, offshore oil drilling is still stalled - by the same Department of the Interior:
A meeting between Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and offshore drilling executives on the Gulf Coast orchestrated by Senator Mary Landrieu, Democrat of Louisiana, failed to yield much progress on streamlining the permitting process for new wells in the aftermath of the BP oil spill, Ms. Landrieu said this week.
“I am extremely disappointed that Secretary Salazar’s presentation today failed to provide regulatory certainty and a clear path for speeding up the process of issuing drilling permits,” she said in a statement.
“Our industry leaders are skeptical and have every right to be,” she said.
Salazar met with drilling advocates on Monday, and made clear the White House will not be moving forward on drilling anytime soon. On Tuesday, he made clear where the administration's favor lies: with green energy interests.
But the failure to expand offshore drilling is extremely costly. If the White House were willing to move forward with drilling, it would create thousands of jobs and add billions in new tax revenue - both of which would be especially valuable at a time of record deficits and a shortage of jobs. Instead, wind farms appear to be the nation's only strategy for attending to domestic energy needs.
Cross-posted at Liberty Central