Critics: Interior shows preference to renewables while denying fossil fuels

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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The Obama administration’s federal lands policy gives undue preference to renewable energy, critics say.

Daniel Kish, senior vice president of the Institute for Energy Research argued the latest Interior Department approval of a new wind-power site on federal lands represents the Obama administration’s commitment to “unreliable, intermittent and expensive energy sources” at the expense of “affordable and reliable” energy sources.

“The constant message the Obama administration sends to the American people is clear — unreliable, intermittent and expensive energy sources will receive preferential treatment, while the affordable and reliable sources we use every day will be taxed, embargoed, and driven into bankruptcy,” Kish said in a statement.

In an effort to push President Obama’s “all-of-the-above” energy policy, the Interior Department announced it had reached Obama’s goal of authorizing 10,000 megawatts of renewable power on federal lands yesterday, approving a new wind-power site in southeastern Wyoming.

The wind project site could generate up to 3,000 megawatts of power and create an estimated 1,000 jobs in construction, operation and maintenance, according to DOI.

“When President Obama took office, he made expanding production of American made energy a priority, including making our nation a world leader in harnessing renewable energy. Tapping the vast renewable energy resources on our nation’s public lands will create jobs while supporting a clean energy future,” said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

However, DOI’s support for renewables is coming at the expense of oil and gas leases, as oil and gas production on federal lands is in decline, says Kish.

“Oil production on federal lands declined last year. Natural gas production on federal lands is in a free fall,” Kish said. “Western oil shale is under an Obama embargo, and our vast offshore energy resources must now wait another 5 years for development thanks to the president’s most recent 5 year OCS plan.”

Last year saw the lowest production levels of federal offshore oil since 2008 and 15 percent less production than in 2010. Likewise, 2011 natural gas produced on federal lands was the lowest level since 2003.

The number of oil and gas drilling permit approvals has also fallen substantially from 6,617 to 4,244 in 2011. The number of oil and gas leases issued has shrunk since 2008 as well from 2,416 to 2,188 in 2011.

“Meanwhile, the administration fast-tracks permitting for wind and solar firms that admit they cannot survive without government subsidies or the mandates that force consumers to purchase their product,” Kish added.

The average approval time for oil and gas leases was 307 days in 2011, up from only 212 days in 2008, according to Bureau of Land Management data.

Since 2009, the administration has authorized 33 renewable energy projects on federal lands, including 18 utility-scale solar facilities, seven wind farms, as well as eight geothermal plants.

When completed, renewable energy will provide more than 10,000 megawatts of power — enough to power more than 3.5 million homes, according to DOI. These projects also support an estimated 13,000 jobs in construction and operations.

“President Obama challenged us in his State of the Union address to authorize 10,000 megawatts of renewable energy on our public lands by the end of the year — enough to meet the needs of more than 3 million homes — and today we are making good on that promise,” Salazar continued.

“President Obama and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar have presided over the most abysmal stewardship of public lands in recent history,” Kish said.

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