Salazar: GOP living in energy 'fairy tale'

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar blasted House Republicans on Tuesday for pursuing “fairy tale” energy policies he said are aimed at scoring political points going into the election.

Salazar, in one of his most fiery speeches in months, accused Republicans of creating a false divide over energy policy that doesn’t reflect public sentiment and stretches the facts to suit their political agenda.

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“It’s in this imagined energy world where we see this growing and continued divide in the energy debate in America. But the divide is not among ordinary Americans, it is between some people here in Washington, D.C.,” Salazar said. “It’s a divide between the real energy world that we work on every day and the imagined, fairy tale world.”

Salazar said the Republican energy agenda is “an invention of a campaign year and political rhetoric.”

“It is a place where up is seen as down, where left is seen as right, where oil shale seems to be mistaken every day in the House of Representatives for shale oil, where record profits justify billions of dollars in subsidies and where rising oil production and our falling dependence on foreign oil somehow add up to bad news,” he said.

Salazar’s remarks, delivered Tuesday afternoon at the National Press Club, come as House Republicans continue to bash President Obama over high gasoline prices. In response, the administration has launched a full-court press to undercut the GOP attacks.

Obama, in a slew of energy speeches in recent months, has touted his “all-of-the-above” energy plan, which includes expanded oil-and-gas production, improved vehicle fuel efficiency and increased investments in renewable energy.

The back-and-forth over energy policy comes amid recent polling that indicates high prices at the pump could be a political liability for both Obama and Republicans in Congress going into the election.

Salazar, echoing comments by the president, stressed that there are no quick-fix solutions to high gasoline prices, which have soared since December but dropped slightly in recent weeks.

“Nobody has the ability, not even Harry Potter, to wave a magic wand and say that we’re going to have gas prices at $2.50, even $3” per gallon, he said.

Salazar called on Congress, specifically House Republicans, to pass three “simple” energy measures that he said could win bipartisan support.

“Instead of spending their time politicking and trying to get an upper hand in an imaginary world, what they should do is work on real solutions,” he said. 

First, Salazar called on Congress to pass “organic” legislation to codify the reforms imposed by the Interior Department in the aftermath of the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. The department reorganized the department to separate out its revenue collection and drilling oversight functions, among other things.

“It’s inexcusable that Congress has yet to enact one piece of legislation to make drilling safer,” Salazar said, just days after the two-year anniversary of the disaster, which dumped 4.9 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico and resulted in the deaths of 11 rig workers.

Second, Salazar pressed Congress to pass legislation implementing an agreement with Mexico governing drilling in the Gulf.

“Congress should act on approval of that trans-boundary agreement through implementing legislation,” he said. “It would be good for the energy security of America.”

Third, the Interior secretary urged Congress to make tax credits for renewable energy permanent and pass legislation requiring that a major portion of the country’s electricity is generated from low-carbon sources.

“If that signal were given, there would be billions of dollars in capital that would move off the sidelines and into the clean energy frontier,” he said.

Salazar aggressively defended Obama’s energy record from GOP criticism that the administration hasn’t done enough to expand domestic energy production.

“Without question, we face serious energy challenges in this country. Gas prices are taking a real toll on family budgets. Our economy is still vulnerable to the ups and downs of world oil markets,” Salazar said.

“But because so many Americans want a results-oriented, all-of-above approach to energy, our nation has made remarkable progress over the last three years.”

U.S. oil and natural-gas production has risen under Obama, but combined oil production from federal lands and waters dipped in fiscal 2011 as offshore output was affected by limits imposed after the BP oil spill, according to Energy Information Administration data.

This story was originally posted at 3 p.m. and was last updated at 9 p.m.