Salazar touts energy independence, protections for Roan |

Salazar touts energy independence, protections for Roan

summit daily news
Summit County, CO Colorado
Summit Daily/Eric Drummond

FRISCO ” America needs to develop independence from foreign oil, but it won’t happen by drilling, U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar told a group of Summit County residents Tuesday morning.

While acknowledging the importance of oil and gas exploration, the cowboy-hatted Salazar emphasized that increased domestic production will not be an adequate solution to the energy squeeze.

“At the end of the day, we are not going to drill our way to energy independence,” he told about 50 people at the Frisco Community Center on one of his whistle-stop meetings in counties around the state.

Alternative fuels are the way of the future, he added.

“I’m an unabashed advocate of the new energy world,” he said. “I will fight (for it) as long as I’m in the U.S. Senate.”

Publicly criticized by some ” including Colorado’s Republican senator, Wayne Allard ” for seeking protection of western Colorado’s Roan Plateau from wholesale drilling, Salazar told the sympathetic Summit County crowd that more study is needed to assess the economic and environmental impact of extracting oil from rock.

“How much water is going to be used?” he asked. “How much energy is going to go into the ground?”

Despite the Bush administration’s desire to “drill under every rock,” Salazar remains optimistic about the chances of preserving the Roan.

Most Democrats and a few moderate Republicans in the Senate support his stand on limiting domestic drilling, he said.

“I have no apologies for what I’ve done for Colorado. But I also understand we need to develop our resources. Lights need coal. Cars need fossil fuels. Am I anti-development? I’m not. My view is we can do better to protect our wildlife and streams,” Salazar said.

According to Salazar, skyrocketing gas prices have yet to change the minds of his constituents.

“I think people here in Colorado still want us to protect Colorado,” he said after the public meeting.

For too long, federal energy policy has been carried out on a “start and stop” basis, he said.

When gas prices dropped in the 1980s, the nation “went to sleep” and abandoned efforts to become energy-independent.

“Everybody slept through the ’90s and just woke up,” he added. “America now has its neck in the noose of dependence on foreign oil.”

Salazar equated the need for energy independence with the nation’s food self-sufficiency that was shored up in the recently approved 2008 Farm Bill, a $285 billion measure that includes provisions for farmer subsidies, nutrition programs and disaster assistance.

“On the Fourth of July, think about the things that keep us independent democracies,” he told the crowd in his opening remarks. “We have dependence on foreign oil. We ought not go down that track with food.”

Like the new farm bill, America’s energy policy also has to be realistic and consistent, the Democratic lawmaker said in response to a question from the audience about renewable-energy tax credits.

In addition to energy independence, Salazar addressed topics ranging from the controversial Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to plans for the Interstate-70 corridor:

On the war in Iraq: “The war is still a major issue. My own hope is that we get to the point in the not-too-distant future where we’ll be able to start bringing our troops home.”

On health-care reform: “There’s a lot of waste in our system. We need leadership. I don’t dislike this president, even though some people do, but we’ve had no leadership in health care. We are going to work on health care in a very major way.”

On the pine-beetle epidemic: “We need to bring a lot more resources from the federal government. It’s a long-term problem ” we have to keep our shoulders to the wheel.”

On the I-70 corridor: “I think it’s a monumental issue. It will have an impact not just for a decade, but for 100 years. We need to come up with a solution, and the people who need to be at the forefront of that need to be the local communities.”

On FISA: “I’ll be supporting it (in its revised form). We’ve made some major changes. I think we need to move forward with it. To me, it was a logical process to try to bring about an end to a sordid chapter in American history, when civil rights have not been honored the way they are supposed to be.”

The post 9/11 measure, which allows federal agents to eavesdrop on telephone calls and other communication between suspected terrorists, has been lambasted for sidestepping an established system of court oversight and for extending legal protection to telecommunication companies that voluntarily surrendered records without court orders.

“The court is now the exclusive authority not the president, not the president’s men,” Salazar said. “As for immunity for telecom companies who received directives from the president, (FISA) will require a U.S. District court to review documents to see if the company acted in good faith.”

Harriet Hamilton can be reached at (970) 668-4651, or at

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