Thursday, April 2, 2009

Interior Secretary to discuss NJ's offshore energy

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is coming to Atlantic City Monday to discuss the future of offshore energy. He says he wants to know what you think, too.

It will be the Obama Administration official's first stop on a tour of public meetings to be followed by sessions in New Orleans, Anchorage and San Francisco.

Salazar will present information from a U.S. Geological Survey-Minerals Management Service Report and will solicit public comment.

At a recent meeting, Salazar said the report on Outer Continental Shelf energy resources found huge information gaps about the location and extent of offshore oil and gas resources.

“Along the Atlantic Coast, for example, the seismic data we have is twenty-five years old,” he said. “How should we gather the information we currently lack about our offshore oil and gas resources? How do we manage the costs of gathering seismic data? Are there areas on the OCS that should be of priority for information collection?”

Can you guess from those questions how the Obama Administration hopes to frame the "discussion" that proceeds from the meeting in Atlantic City and other cities?

I'm not sure but, if I were an executive at ExxonMobil, I think I'd be a bit concerned.

No doubt some will argue on Monday that we should be moving quickly to exploit offshore concentrations of oil and natural gas to lessen dependence on foreign suppliers.

Others will contend that the nation needs to shift its investment focus to the development of offshore wind farms for a sustainable supply of electric power to serve coastal areas which contain the largest population centers.

The latter is the preference of most (but not all) environmental organizations --and, of course, the wind-power industry.

New Jersey's major environmental lobbies--Environment New Jersey, the Sierra Club, and New Jersey Environmental Federation---joined today with two of the firms hoping to develop wind power projects off the Jersey coast --Blue Water Wind and Fishermen's Energy--in a media release urging the public to attend the day-long hearing (9 a.m to 8 p.m.) at Atlantic City Convention Center.

“President Obama’s offshore energy decisions will be with us for decades to come,” said Matt Elliott of Environment New Jersey. “We urge New Jersey residents to attend this hearing to speak out against dirty, dangerous offshore oil drilling, and in favor of clean, renewable energy such as offshore wind, wave, and tidal power.”

No doubt where they're coming from.

We haven't seen a press release yet from the New Jersey Petroleum Council (API) but I don't think the folks there will have much time to play the casino slots on Monday.

Too much at stake here for both sides. Should be interesting.

What's your take? Use the comment block below. If it doesn't appear, click on the tiny 'comments' link.

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