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Interview with Interior Secretary Salazar

Interview with Interior Secretary Salazar

State of the Union - April 12, 2009

KING: You hear a lot of talk these days about the green economy. You might remember just a few weeks back we went to a factory just outside of Philadelphia where they're making those giant wind turbines. The goal, to help reduce the dependence of the United States on foreign oil. But foreign oil will be with us for quite some time. One way to reduce that dependence is to find more domestic sources. And look at the map here. This is off shore oil. They believe there are 10.5 billion barrels offshore in the Pacific, 41 billion in the Western Gulf of Mexico, 3.8 billion here. So we went off shore with the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to talk about this and other energy and environment debates and from an oil rig right here in the Gulf of Mexico, Secretary Salazar gets "The Last Word."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KING: How much of a part of the future is this?

KEN SALAZAR, INTERIOR SECRETARY: It's a very huge part of the future. The outer shelf has 1.57 billion acres, that's a massive plate.

KING: A lot of your friends, people who support your political coalition who don't like this. They think it's dangerous for the environment, they think it's risky the environment.

SALAZAR: We need a comprehensive energy plan. We need to do more with efficiency and we need to do a lot with alternative fuels and renewable energies. We move forward with the mass technologies, but in the meantime, we need to make sure that we're also developing our oil and gas resources so we break our dependence on foreign oil.

KING: But we will be reliant on oil for how long?

SALAZAR: You know, for the foreseeable future. There is no way that we are going to replace the oil and gas that we're using today, John, in a matter of four, five, 10 years. We'll continue to depend on oil and gas as we transition over to higher efficiency and to alternative fuel.

KING: And based on this, if you were to have a conversation with the governor of California or the governor of Florida, whose citizens are very wary of this, they don't want it off their shores, what would you tell them?

SALAZAR: I would tell them to make sure they're making informed decisions. I think there might be something to be said about the placement of where these rigs actually go.

So it's actually the further you are from sharp.

Today we're standing some 75 miles away from the shoreline and it has a different impact on the coast than if we were actually in the marshes or right next to the coastline. So, I think some of it has to do with where the resources are located. Some of it has to do with the technology that has been developed. I think the technology has come a long ways. There was a time, I think, when there was a lot of pollution that actually occurred from these rigs. I think now they'll tell you that there is very little pollution that actually occurs.

Have you had any spills since you've been here?

KING: It sounds like you're saying they should at least open their minds to thinking about this more.

SALAZAR: President Obama has said that the outer continental shelf should be on the table, as part of a comprehensive energy package. So, how exactly that will happen is something that we will be deciding over the next several months. And at the end of the day, we are going to have production. We are pro-production, but we also are going to transform our energy economy from an oil-based, carbon- based economy over to a new energy economy of renewables and the vast technologies. KING: And as this debate has started in the new administration, your critics and Republicans in Congress -- and not all Republicans and some people outside the Congress say what you want to do in terms of greenhouse gases, cap and trade, is essentially a carbon tax on hard-working America.

SALAZAR: You know, they are wrong. I think it's a false choice that is being set up by those who are in opposition to us addressing the issue of carbon emissions.

Here's where the point of transaction occurs, right here.

KING: Could that mean though to deal with it that American households, American families might have to pay more?

SALAZAR: I think what it will mean is that we're going to have to change what we're doing now. So I think there may be changes in the lifestyles of Americans. As we look at the country in ten years of now, it will probably be different in terms of how our homes are constructed, the kinds of vehicles that we drive and other kind of efficiencies we use.

KING: If you turn on a television, the different parties, the different interest in this debate often fight it out with television ads, just like politicians do. Big ads running now say there are no such things as clean coal. Shows a family choking in their house. Is there clean coal?

SALAZAR: There can be clean coal technologies and there is clean coal technologies. But part of what has happened is there has been a failure to move forward in the investment to find out how we can sequester the carbon. You know, coal is to the United States what oil is to Saudi Arabia. The problem is, when you burn it, you have such high emissions of CO2. We could capture CO2 and we could sequester it in geologic formations, but that technology is something that has to be developed. And one of the things that President Obama and the stimulus package has invested a significant amount of money in, to see how we can burn coal in a clean way.

KING: And what do you say to those who look at the new administration, even some who support the goals of the new administration, say the president is trying to do too much. And when you're trying to do too much, too fast, everything gets a little scatter shot.

SALAZAR: I know Barack Obama well, but I know about him is that he is effective in what he is doing. And when you have the kind of crises that we face today as a nation, it requires somebody to do a lot.

So, what President Obama is doing now, he's tackling a whole host of issues, frankly because we were in a crisis time. This is a transformational time. November was a transformational election and the issues that we're dealing with from the economy to health care to energy are issues that cannot wait. We can't wait to get moving on these issues for three or four years. And so that's why he's working so hard every day to try to deliver on the promise of change that he made to America.

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