Offshore Focus Shifts to Renewables

In case you're wondering what Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has been up to since his January 20 confirmation, his department has been sizing up what areas of federal land could be used to develop alternative energy sources and selling leases for oil & gas exploration and drilling.

One potential source of renewable energy is the Outer Continental Shelf, previously a hotly debated source of oil drilling. Today, Salazar appeared before the Senate Energy Committee to discuss the future of offshore waters. And, for any casual observer who witnessed the Republicans' hammering of Democrats in the offshore drilling debate last year, today's topic of discussion--using offshore lands for wind and wave energy--was likely a surprise.

Salazar said at the hearing, according to his prepared testimony:

There is also significant wind and wave potential in our offshore waters.  The National Renewable Energy Lab has identified more than 1,000 gigawatts of wind potential off the Atlantic coast, and more than 900 gigawatts of wind potential off the Pacific Coast.

Renewable energy companies are looking to partner with the government to develop this renewable energy potential.  We should responsibly facilitate this development.

In keeping with that agenda, the department today announced a partnership with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in facilitating the development of renewable energy sources offshore.

Pressure for more drilling on public lands could very well heat up as the summer hits and gas prices go up. But for now the topic du jour, when it comes to offshore energy, is markedly different from what it was in the summer of 2008.

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Chris Good is a political reporter for ABC News. He was previously an associate editor at The Atlantic and a reporter for The Hill.

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