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Feds drill for more data to craft energy policy

The Obama administration needs more research before it can tailor a strategy for harvesting  available energy resources in the U.S., according to a report released today by the Interior Department. President Obama has made clear that he's big on alt energy options – but said during his campaign that he would consider off shore drilling on leased land in combo with development of renewable energy sources in a push to make the U.S. independent of foreign oil.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a statement that the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) energy resources report  points to "huge information gaps about the location and extent of offshore oil and gas resources" that need to be filled in before officials can make any policy decisions on oil exploration and renewable energy research. He noted, for instance, that in some cases seismic and related data (in the Atlantic OCS and Eastern Gulf of Mexico) is more than 25 years old and would have to be updated to determine whether drilling would be safe.

Salazar in February asked the U.S. Geological Survey and Minerals Management Service (MMS) to compile this report, gathering all existing data on oil and natural gas reserves on the OCS and all information on the possible impacts of drilling. Interior last month reached an agreement with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) giving Interior jurisdiction over offshore wind and solar energy projects and FERC authority  over offshore projects that generate electricity from wave and tidal currents. (Interior has jurisdiction over offshore drilling.)

The report notes that the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) has identified more than 1,000 gigawatts of wind power potential off the Atlantic coast, and more than 900 gigawatts of wind potential off the Pacific Coast.

"While we continue to generate a vast majority of our electricity from fossil fuels, renewable energy sources appear more attractive as we look for ways to address environmental, economic, and energy security," the report says. "The energy resources of the OCS, and specifically renewable energy sources, are particularly attractive options with significant resources located in close proximity to coastal population centers."

Image © Minerals Management Service

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