- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Interior Secretary Kenneth L. Salazar on Tuesday blasted the “world of fairy tales” that he thinks most Republicans and some oil and gas industry leaders live in, arguing that the Obama administration remains committed to domestic fossil fuels and any claims to the contrary are patently false.

“There is this imagined energy world, maybe a world of fairy tales, falsehoods, that we often see in Washington, D.C.,” he said during a speech at the National Press Club. “It’s a divide between the real energy world that we work on every day and the imagined fairy tale world. It’s a place where up is seen as down, where left is seen as right.”

Mr. Salazar said the fake energy world is led by House Republicans, who, along with some leading oil and gas companies and associations, fear the Obama administration’s true aim is to slow down domestic fuel production in order to appease environmentalists while redirecting taxpayer money to renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power.

His comments came on the day that the U.S. Department of Justice made its first arrest in connection with the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which dumped millions of gallons of fuel into the Gulf of Mexico. Former BP engineer Kurt Mix, 50, of Katy, Texas, was arrested and charged with two counts of obstruction of justice for allegedly destroying electronic files, including more than 200 text messages containing vital information related to the company’s efforts to stop the flow.

Mr. Mix now faces up to 20 years in federal prison.

Tuesday’s arrest, Mr. Salazar said, is an example of federal regulators and law enforcement officials fulfilling their oversight roles of the energy sector.

“There were, in our view, a number of laws and regulations that were, in fact, broken,” he said. “Companies will be held accountable.”

The oil and gas industry contends that increased federal regulation, led by Mr. Salazar’s Interior Department and the Environmental Protection Agency, has gone too far. If the regulatory squeeze continues, industry advocates say, the nation’s ability to drill for domestic energy will be crippled. They also bemoan the administration’s repeated efforts to persuade Americans that President Obama is on the side of the oil and gas business.

“In the real world, Americans are concerned about skyrocketing energy prices and an exploding federal deficit. Ken Salazar could save U.S. taxpayers a fortune if he’d just send a video around the country making the same tired speech again and again, rather than jet-setting … at taxpayer expense to help Barack Obama win re-election,” said Benjamin Cole, spokesman for the Institute for Energy Research.

During his address, Mr. Salazar touted the fact that domestic oil production on federal lands is up 13 percent since Mr. Obama became president. Figures from the federal Energy Information Administration (EIA) show that assertion to be technically true, but Mr. Salazar left out the fact that the numbers are headed in the opposite direction. Oil production on government land since 2008 is up overall, but dropped 14 percent from 2010 to 2011.

He also omitted EIA numbers showing that since 2008, natural gas production on federal lands - directly controlled by the Interior Department - has dropped dramatically, including an 11 percent dip from 2010 to 2011.

Since 2009, total fossil fuel production on federally controlled land is down 7 percent, according to the EIA.

• Ben Wolfgang can be reached at bwolfgang@washingtontimes.com.

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