Administration confirms cautious approach to offshore drilling

Wind power off the East and West coasts holds the potential to supply 20 percent of all the energy needs for U.S. coastal states, according to a new report by the U.S. Department of Interior.

That offshore power is presumably in addition to onshore wind power, such as what is being developed in Eastern Washington.

The offshore energy report also discusses the potential of oil and gas development, while identifying the risks of building new facilities in sensitive coastal areas. The report suggests what research is needed to answer questions about impacts on the environment — including potential injury to marine mammals.

The Obama administration has been criticized for slowing down the development of offshore oil and gas reserves, which President George Bush was pushing hard. The report seems to cement the new administration’s more cautious approach.

An executive summary of the report was released yesterday, keeping pretty much to the schedule laid out by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar earlier this year. We discussed this issue in Water Ways a couple of weeks ago.

The report also describes the potential of ocean energy — such as waves, tides and currents — but the executive summary does not reveal how aggressively the federal government may pursue needed research.

If you are interested in this subject, I would suggest that you click over and examine the executive summary (PDF 2.1 mb), which is quite readable and concise. I look forward to seeing additional details when the full report is released.

Jim Tankersley, a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, focuses on the wind energy portions of the summary in a story published today. Tankersley reports that Salazar told participants at a renewable energy summit in Virginia that “we are only beginning to tap the potential” of offshore renewable energy.

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