22 December 2008

Oil, gas wary of new team

Ana Radelat, The Advertiser.Com, December 21, 2008

WASHINGTON - President-elect Barack Obama is pushing for a massive promotion of alternative energy sources, but his energy team nominees aren't likely to echo his tough campaign talk criticizing the oil industry.

Obama selected Steven Chu for Energy Secretary. A 60-year-old professor of physics and molecular and cell biology at the University of California, Chu is also director of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and a Nobel Prize winner. As a scientist with little political background, Chu sought scientific solutions to reverse global warming.

Chu's scientific background - and support of the national laboratories, the federal government's premier energy research centers - heartens Independent Petroleum Association of America lobbyist Lee Fuller.

"He doesn't come to the table with preconceptions either way," he said.

Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson, hopes Chu will take an "all of the above" approach to energy policy that includes fossil fuels as well as conservation measures and research to further develop renewable alternative sources of energy

"To be successful, Dr. Chu will have to recognize the importance of energy producing states like Louisiana and the role we can play in reducing our dependence on Middle Eastern oil," Scalise said.

Obama's choice of Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar to head the Interior Department, which has authority over oil and gas leases and other industry issues, has drawn more concern.

Salazar, a moderate Democrat, has a mixed record on oil production. He opposes opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling and the development of shale oil production in the West.

But in 2006 Salazar voted to open new areas of the Gulf of Mexico to production and to share the federal revenues from that new production with Louisiana and other Gulf Coast states.

This year, he joined Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-New Orleans, and other Senate moderates who tried to fashion a compromise between pro-drilling senators and those who wanted to keep a drilling ban on most of the U.S. coastline.

Landrieu, who backed Salazar's efforts to block shale oil production, called the Colorado Democrat "thoughtful, pragmatic and balanced in his approach to energy and natural resource issues."

"He understands that we can responsibly produce domestic energy while still protecting the environment," she said.

The IPAA's Fuller said Chu and Salazar "are people we can work with." Others in the industry are more skeptical.

Obama's choice of former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack to head the Department of Agriculture indicates the new administration will continue to promote ethanol production. Both Obama and Vilsack are regarded as staunch advocates of ethanol and other biofuels as a way to reduce the nation's reliance on foreign oil.

Donald Briggs, president of the Louisiana Independent Oil and Gas Association, said he appreciates Salazar's willingness to consider the expansion of offshore drilling, but will reserve final judgment on Obama's cabinet choices.

"They could have been worse, but they also could have been better," he said.

The usually outspoken Sen. David Vitter, R-Metairie, is deferring his opinion.

"I'm not sure exactly what these picks will mean, we'll have to see," Vitter said. "What I fear most is that they will reinstate the moratoria on domestic production that we just lifted."

One of the first energy issues Obama must grapple with is whether to impose an executive moratorium on drilling along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts that was lifted by President George Bush. The new Congress must also decide whether to impose its own ban on offshore drilling in those areas, which the outgoing Congress allowed to expire.

Rep. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette, said he would encourage Chu and Salazar to "expand energy exploration off our coast to create high-paying jobs here in Southwest Louisiana."

Chu and Salazar are expected to easily win confirmation in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which has scheduled confirmation hearings for Jan. 13 and 15. But some of the panel's Republican lawmakers are likely to grill them about offshore drilling, ANWR and the future role of the strategic petroleum reserves, an underground storage system of federal oil in salt caverns in Louisiana and Texas that would be tapped if there is a national emergency.

Lawmakers, however, won't be able to vote on one member of Obama's energy team, former Environmental Protection Agency Director Carol Browner, because her job does not require Senate confirmation.

Browner will serve in the newly created position of presidential assistant on energy and climate change, a moved hailed by environmentalist. But energy producers worry Browner will impose new regulations on greenhouse gases produced by fossil fuels and lead a campaign to re-establish the offshore drilling ban.

Copyright ©2008 The Daily Advertiser

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Anonymous said...

Browner’s selection is a serious fax pas for Mr. Obama. Her appointment will send a chilling message throughout Lisa Jackson’s EPA.

From Carol Browner’s Wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carol_Browner

“During Browner’s tenure, there were many reports from African American employees of racism directed at them from a network of “good old boys” who dominated the agency’s middle management layers.[16] The most known of these involved policy specialist Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, who in 1997 filed suit against the agency; in 2000 the EPA was found guilty of discrimination against her and she was awarded $300,000.[16][17] Coleman-Adebayo said that Browner allowed the problems to persist rather than trying to clean them up: “She wasn’t at all sympathetic to complaints about civil rights abuses. We were treated like Negroes, to use a polite term. We were put in our place.”[16] In an October 2000 Congressional hearing on the matter,[18] Browner appeared near tears as she said minorities had tripled in the agency’s senior ranks during her time as administrator, but she was unable to explain why the culprits in Coleman-Adebayo’s case had not been dismissed and in some cases had been promoted.[16] A month earlier, Browner had asked for the Office of the Inspector General to linvestigate a statement by an African American environmental specialist that she had been ordered to clean a toilet in 1993 in advance of Browner’s arrival at an EPA event.[19] This followed a rally in which dozens of EPA employees protested what they saw as rampant bias at the agency.[19] Congressional dissatisfaction with the EPA situation and its treatment of Coleman-Adebayo led to passage of the No-FEAR Act in 2002, which discourages federal managers and supervisors from engaging in unlawful discrimination and retaliation.[17]”

Awicaksono said...

Geez, what a shocking surprise. Do you think Obama knows all of these?