Salazar seeks energy solution |

Salazar seeks energy solution

Judith Kohler
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont, right, speaks during a news conference on energy with Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., left, and Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., Tuesday, July 29, 2008, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

DENVER ” To those whose one-word solution to the U.S. energy dilemma is “drill,” Sen. Ken Salazar has a one-word response: “Incomplete.”

The Colorado lawmaker says drilling for more domestic oil and gas is part of the solution, and he’s joining fellow Democrats to push for extension of renewable energy tax credits.

Republicans, bolstered by the public’s frustrations with high pump prices, want to lift restrictions on drilling offshore and in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

“There are those within the GOP who’ve taken the position that we will drill our way out of energy dependence. I think that answer is incomplete,” Salazar said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. “Those who come down to the proposition who say our answer is one word, ‘drill,’ are not being forthright with what we have to do in the long term.”

Salazar said he advocates a four-pronged approach: conservation, alternative fuels and energy, new technology and drilling.

“Drilling is part of the equation, but only part of the equation,” he said late Tuesday.

A move by Senate Democrats Wednesday to extend tax credits for wind, solar, biomass and other renewable energies and energy efficiency died 51-43, nine votes short of the 60 needed to begin floor debate. Nearly all Republicans say the Senate’s only business now is acting on an energy bill that promotes drilling and other measures to boost domestic oil supply.

Many of the tax credits run out at the end of this year.

Salazar has been criticized for urging slow going on commercial oil shale development and more environmental safeguards on drilling on western Colorado’s’ Roan Plateau, rich in oil and gas as well as wildlife and unspoiled backcountry.

The Golden-based Western Business Roundtable said in a recent statement that Salazar should “check your fire on oil shale” and give science and technology a chance. The group supports increasing domestic energy production.

Last year, Salazar sponsored a measure that prohibits using federal funds to draft final regulations for commercial-scale oil shale development. He has urged more research, development and analysis of the potential environmental and economic impacts of large-scale oil shale production.

Industry officials say commercial development is several years off.

Salazar and Colorado congressmen Mark Udall and John Salazar are sponsoring a proposal to replace a federal plan for the Roan Plateau with one that would make more land off-limits to drilling and phase in leasing of the land. He said the measure would “put more natural gas in the pipelines” while looking out for Colorado water and air quality and wildlife.

Colorado, while in the middle of a natural gas boom, is making strides in becoming a national leader in renewable energy, Salazar said. State elected and business leaders have courted companies to locate renewable energy projects in Colorado, building on the expertise available at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden and researchers at other federal labs and universities.

Salazar points to Colorado’s example as the kind of broad-based energy policy that’s necessary.

“We find ourselves in the mess of 2008 of energy and housing because of failed policies of the past,” Salazar said. “We shouldn’t be repeating the mistakes of the past.”

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