Salazar is drilling home renewables' new power


In one of her earliest appearances before the Senate Natural Resources Committee, Gale Norton, President George W. Bush's first interior secretary, proclaimed in 2001 the need to "explore the entire smorgasbord of different options" when it came to domestic energy production.

But what was actually on the buffet was telling: Drilling off the coast of Florida, coal extraction in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah and exploring for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.

Now fast forward eight years, to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's first appearance before the same Senate committee last week.

He laid out maps that showed wind-energy potential across the West; talked about tapping geothermal energy underlying states including Idaho and Colorado; and evoked the vision of a high-tech "super- electron highway" that will connect "renewable-energy zones" on public lands to homes in California or New Jersey.

After less than two months in office, Salazar's big-vision effort to refocus the country's massive energy development bureaucracy is taking shape.

… To see what that actually means from the inside, take the example of Ray Brady, manager of the Bureau of Land Management's Energy Policy Team, which under the Bush administration had helped direct the West's drilling boom.
Brady said that even with the higher priority the Bush Interior Department put on renewable energy in its final few years, he spent at most 25 percent of his time on the issue.

"This past week, I spent 100 percent of my time on it," Brady said. And even after the intensity of the current transition settles, he expects to spend the bulk of his time on the issue as head of the new "renewable-energy team" headquartered in Washington.