Friday, January 8, 2010

Handmaiden's Tail

U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced Wednesday (1/6) that the US Department of the Interior was at the end of acting as a “handmaiden” to the US fossil fuel industry.

The Department will henceforward use more “balance” between the pecuniary desires of industry and environmental concerns when granting leases on public lands. He insisted that a more stringent review process requiring site visits by federal land managers would not result in diminished production of oil and gas, but only more responsible practices:
The difference is in the prior administration the oil and gas industry essentially were the kings of the world. ... The previous administration’s “anywhere, anyhow” policy on oil and gas development ran afoul of communities, carved up the landscape and fueled costly conflicts that created uncertainty for investors and industry. We need a fresh look--from inside the federal government and from outside--at how we can better manage Americans’ energy resources.
Salazar said that Interior would no longer be a “candy store” for the petroleum industry.

Predictably, there was whining from Jack Gerard, chief mouthpiece and president of the American Petroleum Institute:
Interior Secretary Salazar has taken steps to further delay and limit American energy resources for all Americans.
This is clearly not true, both from the sustained encouragement of renewable energy and even from the issuance of oil and gases leases in the millions of acres. Replied Salazar:
Wrong. In the prior administration the oil and gas industry essentially were the kings of the world. Whatever they wanted to happen, happened. The agency was essentially the handmaiden of the industry... I expect the shrill nature of criticisms from the oil and gas industry.
It's great to have something closer to a responsible energy policy after years of the sugar-crazed pandemonium in the candy store. Salazar's general approach as Secretary has been a welcome break from the enabling of the Bush Administration. If the rumors of Salazar quitting to run for Governor of Colorado were true, it would be a great loss for energy and environmental sanity. Fortunately, it appears they are not.
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