After toeing the White House line before the BP Oil spill commission on the future of offshore energy exploration, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar continued his public relations tour last week with a speech at the Woodrow Wilson Center. In the speech he outlined the Obama administration’s stance on energy policy, and specifically offshore exploration.
Secretary Salazar continues to justify the offshore drilling moratorium, which has cost thousands of jobs even by his administration’s own estimates. Yet his ongoing spin cycle is only a small part of a larger effort to portray the image-conscious Salazar as a hero in the BP debacle.
Unfortunately, Secretary Salazar’s carefully maintained image as a “boots and a suit” independent belies a stringent partisan with a lengthy history of fighting domestic energy exploration at every turn. From the Eastern Plains of Colorado to Alaska’s idled energy riches to the now desolate drilling rigs of the Gulf Coast, Secretary Salazar’s legacy of job killing enmity toward domestic energy is reaching its pinnacle.
While the Secretary paints his ongoing moratorium, one which his own administration states will cost “only” 12,000 jobs, as necessary for the safety of the Gulf Coast, it’s important to remember that he has a long history of opposing domestic energy resource development and the jobs and security that come with it.
In 2008, when working families were pushed to near breaking point by $4 a gallon gas, then Senator Salazar advocated draining the Strategic Oil Reserve – a crucial part of our national security plan – rather than increasing the amount of domestic energy exploration in the U.S. It stands to reason that paying foreign dictatorships for oil would constitute a greater threat to our safety than excavating a natural, American made substance – except in the mind of Secretary Salazar.
Beyond just his opposition to domestic energy resources, the Secretary’s real legacy is his knack for killing jobs. Take his home state of Colorado, where unemployment currently sits at 8.2 percent.
Secretary Salazar’s handpicked protégé in the energy rich Eastern plains, his former staffer, Congresswoman Betsy Markey, followed the example of her former (or current?) boss and dutifully voted in favor of cap-and-trade legislation. Had it passed, this bill, a crown jewel of the extreme environmental lobby that propelled her to office, would have imposed huge energy taxes on consumers, increased prices for unemployed Coloradans at the pump and killed thousands of jobs, both in the Rocky Mountain State and across the country.
Apparently, however, job loss is something the Department of Interior is willing to live with, as they continue to impose an offshore drilling moratorium that LSU Professor Joseph Mason has stated could cost up to 155,000 jobs. A willing sacrifice to Secretary Salazar, provided we don’t conduct any domestic energy exploration.
There’s no question that fostering job losses, endangering national security and even allowing political cronyism have sealed Secretary Salazar’s legacy as a public figure who will go to any length to fight the energy jobs of more than 9 million Americans.
Regardless of the Secretary’s deeply held beliefs, our country no longer has the luxury of withstanding his assault on one of the few sectors of the American economy that is working.
Secretary Salazar needs to allow working families on the Gulf Coast to resume their way of life – and leave his extreme political views at the door.
Thomas J. Pyle is President and CEO of the American Energy Alliance.