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Brandi Colander’s Blog

The Next Frontier: Secretary Salazar looks to wind power to replace 3,000 coal plants

Brandi Colander

Posted April 6, 2009

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Today, my colleague Ali Chase  participated in a regional public hearing  by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar aimed at addressing the future of offshore energy development. As a representative of NRDC, Ali had three primary asks for this Administration:


  • 1) Not to open up new offshore lands to oil and gas leasing, exploration, production, or development until the findings of two important assessments are made available.
  • 2) Suspend new leasing and any drilling activities and seismic activities on existing leases in the Beaufort and Chuckchi Seas on Alaska's Artic coast until we have the necessary information to make sensible energy policy decisions.
  • 3) Ensure that offshore renewables are developed without jeopardizing the health of our already-stressed, valuable ocean systems.


During this public hearing, Secretary Salazar announced that wind power can replace 3,000 coal plants and offers a great opportunity along the East Coast. The Secretary also acknowledged that the exploitation of renewable energy resources is essential as we have traditionally depended on the Outer Continental Shelf, which extends approximately 200 miles from shore, for 14 percent of our nation's natural gas production and 27 percent of its oil production. Salazar regards the purchase of oil from countries hostile to the United States, as "funding both sides in the war on terrorism."


The new frontier of offshore energy presents many exciting opportunities and challenges for our domestic energy policy.  As strong supporters of renewable energy and our natural resources, it is imperative that we approach this new era with adequate information and prudence to ensure that we are striking the right balance between offering alternatives to fossil fuels while not causing irreparable harm to the natural resources that sustain us, like our precious oceans.


We are witnessing the perfect storm of potential for renewable energy as the increased awareness of our changing climate coupled with economic hardships and increased costs associated with traditional fossil fuels (both environmental and fiscal) encourage us to move away from "business as usual."  We have also witnessed firsthand the impact that our economy has had on every industry, and the renewable energy industry was not immune.


As we move forward, and look to our oceans, we must learn from them first. This requires acquiring the proper information to assess the best possible siting options for these renewable energy alternatives.  One way to do this is by using marine spatial planning. Marine spatial plans developed in partnership and coordination with NOAA and willing states, respectively, can better inform us in an effort to prevent the siting of projects where unique vulnerabilities and potentially devastating environmental impacts may be present. Many are actively engaged in watching and working with the leadership of the Interior Department to better understand how we are moving forward as a nation to address these concerns.



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