Interior Secretary Ken Salazar Tuesday attacked Republicans for moving forward with “fairy tale” energy policies that are based primarily on campaign and political rhetoric.

There is a growing divide over energy policy in this “imagined energy world,” Salazar said during a luncheon at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.

“The divide is not among ordinary Americans. It is between some people here in Washington, DC. It is a divide between the real energy world that we are working on every day and the imagined fairy tale world,” which he said was an invention of political rhetoric. He said the gap between the real energy world and the imaginary one is widening.

The “good news is the imagined energy world is actually very small,” confined mostly to the House of Representatives, Salazar said.

While debate over energy policy rages in Washington, Americans overwhelmingly agree on energy, he said. They support the expansion of drilling offshore, but only in specific places.

He defended the department against criticism that permitting is slow in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM). “The Gulf is back…the critics don’t know what the facts are,” he told company executives. However, he conceded that Interior is much more rigorous in processing permits for offshore drilling in the aftermath of the Macondo well blowout that lead to the explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon rig (see Daily GPI, April 22, 2010).

Offshore Alaska, Salazar said that if Shell is given the green light to drill in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas, “it will be done under the most [closely watched] exploration program in the history of the world.” He said the department would make a decision on Shell’s application to drill in a “timely manner.”

Salazar further said Interior has taken steps to reduce the number of onshore leases that are protested and held up in court. When he became secretary, the office was in “disarray” with half of all oil and gas leases being protested, he said. Since then, Interior has adopted the “smart-from-the-start approach so that fewer leases end up in court.”

He called on Congress to pass three pieces of legislation this year, including:

“Is it likely Congress will rise to the occasion [on these three bills]? I would hope so,” Salazar said.

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