Department Of Interior

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Office of the Secretary
Contact: John Wright
For Immediate Release: Aug. 4, 2004
Assistant Secretary Watson Assures Leaders that Energy Production, a Healthy Environment and a Vibrant Economy Go Hand-in-Hand

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz.-Rebecca Watson, Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Land and Minerals Management, told the Southwest Renewable Energy Conference convening in Flagstaff, Ariz. today, that America must diversify its energy portfolio by encouraging the use of renewable energy sources.

"We are working aggressively with communities and local officials to promote and encourage the development and use of our domestic renewable energy sources," Watson said. "Our approach is consistent with the President's National Energy Policy for diversifying the nation's energy portfolio by encouraging the use of biomass, geothermal, wind and solar energy on federally owned lands."

Assistant Secretary Watson explained that public lands managed by the Interior Department have a significant role to play in the development of domestic renewable energy resources. More than 260 million acres of land, primarily in the West, are managed by the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management. BLM lands are managed for multiple uses, including energy development.

"We face an immediate challenge of how to produce the energy our economy needs to remain strong. Watson said. "We can address that challenge now by carefully integrating energy and environmental policy, or we can wait until the next energy crisis is upon us and our choices are limited."

Watson said that although renewable energy currently supplies only 2 percent of the nation's needs, the growth in the U.S. renewable energy generation over the past decade has been impressive-increasing approximately 30 percent since 1990, and this trend is expected to continue. Currently, lands managed by BLM account for approximately
10 percent of domestic wind power and 48 percent of domestically produced geothermal power.

"Our national energy strategy includes not only enhancing supplies of renewable and nonrenewable energy, but also places an important focus on conservation," said Watson. "State, local governments and utilities are leading the way in providing incentives, new policies and regulations for renewable energy development."

BLM manages over 400 geothermal leases. Fifty-five of those leases are capable of producing enough energy to supply electrical power to more than 1.2 million homes. In 2003, the Interior Department approved two additional geothermal plants in California with capacities of 49 megawatts each. Once in production, these plants can supply power for approximately 90,000 homes

Watson noted that the Interior Department has conducted several renewable energy resource assessments. The Department also held two renewable energy conferences and most recently a biomass energy conference earlier this year.

"Our review and assessment of renewable energy sources indicates that public lands managed by the Department of Interior have the potential to contribute greatly to the U.S. renewable energy supply," said Watson. "We must work together to build a new harmony between our energy needs and our environmental concerns."

Although the United States is only about 5 percent of the world's population, Americans use 25 percent of the world's energy to produce about 25 percent of the world's Gross Domestic Product. "America's standard of living and our economic productivity are dependent on a stable and abundant supple of inexpensive energy," said Watson. "By 2005, our demand for natural gas is expected to increase by 40 percent."

Watson also pointed out that the Western Governor's Clean Energy Initiative includes a commitment by western states to produce 30,000 megawatts of clean energy by 2020. This will meet 15 percent of the current demand in the region.

"The utilization of biomass from federal lands is compatible with the President's Healthy Forests Initiative to restore the resistance of forests and rangelands to disease and insects and to protect communities from catastrophic wildfires," Watson said. "Thinned wood biomass can be used to create renewable source of biomass energy."

Watson noted that the Department of the Interior is committed to implementing President Bush's long-term National Energy Policy to develop and produce traditional sources of energy on in an environmentally responsible way and to increase the development and use of renewable energy sources on federal land.

A major component of the President's National Energy Policy is to encourage a clean and diverse group of domestic energy supplies. In November 2001, the Department of the Interior held a National Conference on Opportunities to Expand Renewable Energy on Public Lands. In February 2002, the Department and the BLM held a second follow up conference on renewable resources.

Note to Editors: For more information about the Interior Department's renewable energy initiative, click here on



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