During President Obama’s speech on climate change earlier this week he said that more energy projects needed to be developed on federal land. While some are in favor of this strategy, many are not. Yet according to outgoing U.S. Department of the Interior Deputy Secretary David J. Hayes, energy development on federal lands is robust and opportunities abound for oil and gas production as well as renewable energy projects Hayes made these remarks at a Platts Energy Podium newsmaker event in Washington.
Hayes, who is leaving his post to teach at Stanford Law School in the fall, defended his department’s efforts despite criticism from some in Congress that the Obama administration isn’t moving fast enough to make more public lands available for energy development.
“It is incredibly frustrating how politicized this issue has become,” Hayes said. “On the oil side, onshore, we’ve gone up by 35% in terms of oil being produced on our public lands.”
Offshore development has also increased and Hayes said production in the Gulf of Mexico has not only recovered from delays caused by the Deepwater Horizon spill in 2010, but is higher than it’s been in years. He also noted there are increased federal safety standards in place.
While oil production is up, Hayes said natural gas production is down with companies focusing on finds in shale formations (fracking) that are on private and state lands. On the renewables side, Hayes said the Interior Department has approved 25 utility-scale solar facilities, nine major wind farms and 11 geothermal plants – more than 13,000 megawatts of renewable energy power approval since 2009.
“We have done proof of concept that in this country we can have utility-scale renewable energy providing a major energy source to major population centers,” Hayes added.