Sunday, Feb. 15, 2009 | 2:06 a.m.
In response to the Republicans’ answer last year to high gas prices, capsulized at their national convention by the chant, “Drill, baby, drill,” Congress ended a 1981 ban on oil and gas exploration and drilling that extended to 85 percent of the country’s coastal waters.
The Bush administration responded — just days before President Barack Obama took office — with an offshore drilling proposal that took full advantage of Congress’ action.
As the Associated Press described it, the proposal envisioned drilling rigs in coastal waters “from New England to Alaska.”
Fortunately, the new secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, will put forth his own offshore proposal. He has rejected the Bush administration’s version, calling it hastily prepared, not inclusive of coastal state views and too shortsighted in its exclusive embrace of oil and gas interests.
“We need to ... restore an orderly process to our offshore energy planning program,” Salazar said last week. He promised to hold regional meetings to ensure that people who could be affected by offshore energy plans can express their opinions.
While that is going on, Interior Department scientists will be preparing new estimates of how much oil and gas might be found off the Pacific and Atlantic coasts, the AP reported.
We appreciate Salazar’s more thoughtful approach to offshore energy development, which under his watch could include renewable energy. He has pledged to study whether the offshore areas would be suitable for tapping into wind, solar and wave power.
“The Bush administration was so intent on opening new areas for oil and gas offshore that it torpedoed offshore renewable energy efforts,” Salazar said.
A proposal that includes a mix of traditional energy and renewable energy is far superior because it looks ahead instead of condemning the country to years more, maybe decades more, of the status quo — dirty air and water and the risk of oil-soaked beaches.
Given the challenge of developing offshore renewables, our entrepreneurs and scientists just might discover the as-yet elusive path to energy’s future.