Washington, D.C. – Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva, Chairman of the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, today questioned the Obama administration’s recently announced environmental and energy policy. In light of the president’s intention to pursue major new offshore oil and gas drilling, Grijalva said, the White House should more clearly explain its priorities to the American people. Specifically, he said, the president should address how he plans to fight climate change and implement a workable transition to alternative fuels.
“The American people are looking to the White House for leadership and a path to a clean energy future,” Grijalva said. “This decision sends a mixed message about the direction of our energy policy. These new drilling areas will not produce oil for many years, and our coastal regions will receive little to no immediate employment benefit from this policy change.” A single spill or other environmental disaster, Grijalva said, could have major regional economic and ecological repercussions. “The use of oil and gas contributes significantly to the ongoing global climate crisis,” he added, “and no amount of wishful thinking will make them any less harmful to human health and the environment.”
Rather than focus on expanded drilling, Grijalva said, the president should lay out a multi-faceted approach to clean energy development in the public and private sectors, including ambitious goals tied to strong incentives.
“We must prioritize funding for sustainable alternatives now,” he said. “For too long, energy policy has been framed as a choice between ‘pro-consumer’ relaxation of environmental standards and ‘anti-growth’ protective measures. That’s not the reality of oil drilling. The reality is that oil, whether it comes from the United States or the Middle East, is neither renewable nor economically viable over the long term.”
Grijalva described the president’s decision to protect the Bristol Bay region of Alaska, which had been considered for new drilling, “the one bright spot that only adds to the confusion and mixed signals coming from the White House. Protecting one region at another’s expense is not a workable energy plan in a larger context. Energy policy, environmental protections and economic development are tightly interconnected, and pursuing some vague, split-the-difference course will not take this country where it needs to go.”
Without a clearer statement of sustainable energy principles, goals, timelines and investment priorities from the White House, Grijalva said, “making informed decisions will be more difficult for both the private sector and Congress. I don’t believe the president wants this confusion to persist, and I look forward to hearing from him how we can all work together to reach our sustainable energy independence goals and continue to safeguard our coastal economies and ecosystems.”