Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Human Jukebox

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is a human jukebox. His tune is constantly changing, depending on what he thinks his audience wants to hear.

As a Colorado senator, Salazar pandered to the zero-drilling crowd by doing everything in his power to block energy leases on the Roan Plateau, throwing an 11th-hour monkey wrench into an exhaustive, multi-year public process that had struck a sensible balance between economic and ecological values. And one of the first things Salazar did after confirmation was unilaterally withdraw a number of drilling leases in Utah, after green extremists, led by the actor Robert Redford, raised a fuss over them.

Salazar's record as senator was consistently anti-drilling. He opposed opening ANWR, and supported drilling moratoriums off the east and west coasts. When gas prices went stratospheric last summer, and angry Americans began chanting "drill baby drill," Salazar made a minor position shift, by saying he was open to a little more drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. In another pander to FFPs (fossilfuelphobes), Salazar obstructed oil shale development on the Western Slope.

His record as a politician has been consistently anti-oil and gas development. He's been the happy lap dog of green extremists. And that's why he was a terrible choice for interior secretary -- a position that should be filled by a realist, not a radical.

The human jukebox was in drilling country yesterday -- Colorado's Western Slope -- so he was suddenly sounding bullish on natural gas development. He told editorial board members at the Grand Junction Sentinel exactly what they wanted to hear:

“The future of natural gas is very bright,” Salazar told The Daily Sentinel editorial board after he presided over the dedication of the Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area.
Natural gas is one of the sources of fuel he’s recommending President Obama look to as the nation’s energy policy is being shaped, primarily because it’s considered to be less a source of greenhouse gases than other fossil fuels, he said.

As a senator from Colorado, Salazar had been critical of the Bureau of Land Management’s leasing of lands on the Roan Plateau for natural-gas drilling. That plan is now the subject of a federal lawsuit and there are efforts to reach a settlement, Salazar said.

He ruled out withdrawing the Roan Plateau leases, as he did with 77 contentious leases in neighboring Utah near national parks, because the Roan leases had been signed, giving the buyers a property right he was bound to protect, Salazar said.

The process with the Utah leases was not so complete, he said."

I assume Sentinel board members were savvy enough to know they were being slant-drilled by Salazar. Maybe they were just too polite to call him out on his revisionism, his dishonesty and his inconsistency.

In fact, the Utah leases were as "complete" as the process allows. All the necessary procedures had been followed. They posed no threat to any national parks (except in the fevered minds of zero-drilling groups). Salazar's actions constituted an abuse of power, as shown by the fact that a number of the leases have been reinstated by a review board.

And the Roan leases only became a "property right" (I'm not sure Salazar really understands the concept) over the boisterous objections of then-Senator Salazar, because the Bush administration, to its credit, refused to nullify years of study and work by an agency Salazar now overseas, the Bureau of Land Management. Salazar's anti-drilling antics failed to block the Roan leases, but they cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars in lost revenue, since his efforts to derail drilling on the Roan scared-off many potential bidders, driving down expected proceeds from the auction.

The future of natural gas in America does indeed look bright -- imported natural gas, that is. Most domestic supplies of oil and natural gas remain off limits to drilling, thanks to green extremists and the politicians, like Salazar, who carry water for them. The future is bright for the foreign countries and foreign-owned companies that are hoping to get Americans as hooked on natural gas imports as we are on oil imports. The future will remain dim and uncertain for domestic natural gas development as long as the radicals, rather than the realists, are in charge.

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