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Feds aim to close off more lands to drilling, despite Obama remarks

“The president is locking up an area that contains about 1.5 trillion barrels of recoverable oil — that’s about as much recoverable oil as the rest of the world’s proven reserves combined,” said Kentucky Republican Rep. Ed Whitfield.

“Allowing safe and responsible energy development on federal lands is a critical step toward reducing our dependence on Middle East oil, but rather than embrace our country’s resources, the president is designating even more federal areas as off-limits,” Whitfield added.

Democrats and the Obama administration contend that the plan still opens up a significant amount of land for drilling, even though less is now open than had been planned, reports the Hill.

“I am glad the Interior Department is taking measured steps to encourage research and development of our oil shale resources,” said Colorado Democrat Sen. Mark Udall. “With water being one of our most precious commodities in the West, I have concerns about the potential impacts of commercial oil shale development.”

The Obama administration has, however, expanded federal lands access to development of renewable energy. In August, the Interior and Defense departments announced a partnership to open 16 million acres for renewable energy development in the southwestern United States and offshore.

And as of July 2012, 31 major renewable energy projects had been permitted, enough to generate nearly 7,000 megawatts of electricity for about two million homes — a majority of this energy involves utility-scale solar projects, according to the White House.

“Developing America’s solar energy resources is an important part of President Obama’s commitment to expanding American-made energy, increasing energy security, and creating jobs,” said Energy Secretary Steven Chu.

“While other countries like Canada are busy growing their economy by developing their own resources, this administration is busy promoting policies that embargo our own oil from ourselves,” said Whitfield.

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