Interior secretary: ‘Keep it in the ground’ activists 'naive'

Interior secretary: ‘Keep it in the ground’ activists 'naive'
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Interior Secretary Sally JewellSally JewellOutdoor gear companies take on Trump Overnight Regulation: Trump administration lifts Obama freeze on federal coal mining Trump administration ends Obama's coal-leasing freeze MORE had harsh criticism for activists who want to dramatically reduce the production of fossil fuels.

Jewell said the activists, who call their movement “keep it in the ground,” ignore the fact that for the time being, the country is dependent on oil, natural gas and coal.

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“It’s going to take a very long time before we can wean ourselves from fossil fuels, so I think that to keep it in the ground is naive, to say we could shift to 100 percent renewables is naïve,” Jewell told The Desert Sun newspaper after a California event to dedicate new national monuments in the desert.

“We really have to have a blend over time, and a transition over time, that recognizes the real complexity of what we're dealing with,” she said.

Jewell oversees nearly all of the major land-owning federal agencies, including the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service.

The agencies represent an important piece of the fossil fuel production in the United States, supplying, for example, about 40 percent of the country’s coal production through private companies’ leases on public land.

But activists in recent years have tried to reduce that production, blaming the Obama administration for the environmental and climate impact from those fuels.

Jewell made a similar argument last year in a meeting with reporters, saying, “We are a nation that continues to be dependent on fossil fuels.”

But she was also optimistic in the interview published Friday about an eventual move away from fossil fuels.

“We will transition ourselves from a fossil fuel-dependent economy to an economy where we are not as dependent,” she said.

Jewell has put a three-year moratorium on new coal leasing on federal lands as part of an effort to better account for climate change in leasing fees and terms.