Interioor Secretary Salazar's comments on offshore policy

March 31, 2010 

U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's comments Wednesday at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland on the federal government's new plans for offshore leasing.

Good morning.

It is an honor to be here today with President Obama and other leaders who have worked so hard to set America free from our dependence on foreign oil.

We are here today because Americans have waited long enough for the energy security they have been promised for decades.

It was the 1970s when President Nixon first coined the term "energy independence." And presidents ever since - from both parties - have promised to deliver on this goal.

Yet today in America, families are still filling their cars with fuel from deserts half a world away. Our economy still rides the highs and lows of world oil prices. And our children are asking: will we leave behind the same old energy policy that has failed us for forty years?

Or, is now the time for change?

President Obama has made it clear that we are not here to do what is easy. We are here to do what is right. To make hard choices. To succeed where others have failed by finally cutting America's dependence on foreign oil, building a clean energy economy that is more secure and more prosperous, and protecting our children from the dangers of pollution.

Since President Obama took office, we have made great progress toward this goal. We're standing up wind turbines on the plains and solar plants in the desert. We're making our grid smarter and the next generation of nuclear power safer.

We've made the largest investment in renewable energy in our history, and are fighting to put the United States back on top in the technologies that will shape the next century. It's a race we can't afford to lose to China or India or anyone else.

All the things we are doing will help us cut our dependence on foreign oil.

But no single energy source is enough. Oil. Gas. Coal. Nuclear. Sun.

Wind. Geothermal. Biofuels. Hydropower. They all need to be on the table.

So today, as part our comprehensive energy plan for the country, we are announcing how we will responsibly expand oil and gas exploration and development on the Outer Continental Shelf.

Our strategy calls for expanded development and production in new areas, such as the Eastern Gulf of Mexico, where we can develop resources that are more than 125 miles off Florida's coast.

We are moving forward with significant new oil and gas exploration in frontier areas, such as the Arctic Ocean and areas in the Atlantic, where we must find the oil and gas reserves and determine if we can develop them appropriately.

And we are protecting areas off our coasts, like Alaska's Bristol Bay, that are simply too special to drill.

Bristol Bay has some of the world's richest fisheries, including one of the largest sockeye salmon runs in the world. People come from across the globe to see its bears, whales, seals, and bald eagles. It is a national treasure that we must protect.

Together, our efforts to explore, develop and protect represent a new direction on the OCS.

After years of lawsuits and political battles, we are bringing much-needed order and certainty to our nation's offshore leasing program.

This order and certainty will come from our commitment to ensuring that:

Development occurs in the right places and in the right ways; That we are making decisions based on sound information and sound science; That we are listening to the communities most affected; That we are following the law and have an orderly process for exploration and development; And that American taxpayers are getting a fair return for the use of their resources.

Those are the principles that will guide our offshore energy future.

As the person responsible for balancing the many values, needs, and uses on the OCS, I know full well that the decisions we make will affect our prosperity and the availability of affordable domestic energy supplies for years to come.

But I also make these decisions knowing our responsibility - as an American people - to preserve the land, water, and wildlife that have allowed our country to flourish, generation after generation.

In 1907, President Teddy Roosevelt reminded the Congress that though we are blessed with a rich natural bounty in America, we must develop our resources with an eye to future generations.

"Optimism is a good characteristic," he said, "but if carried to an excess, it becomes foolishness. We are prone to speak of the resources of this country as inexhaustible; this is not so."

The OCS strategy we are announcing today heeds President Roosevelt's caution, stays true to our values as Americans, and allows us to responsibly expand oil and gas exploration and development in the offshore while protecting the places we love most.

We are fortunate to have President Obama's leadership in these efforts.

For President Obama understands that to do what is right for the country we must rise above the political battles of the moment. Energy security is not a Democratic issue or a Republican issue. It is an American issue whose time has come.

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