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Sunday
Apr282013

Two Faces of Interior Secretary Sally Jewell

Contributed by Daniel Graeber of Oilprice.com

New U.S. Interior Department Secretary Sally Jewell went green with one of her first formal moves in the White House last week when she announced her department would be the first in line for new hybrid vehicles for its fleet. The former chief executive at outdoor retailer Recreational Equipment Inc. said doing so made good business sense in a way that also advanced a federal low-carbon footprint.

When President Obama introduced her to the nation in February, he said she knew there was no contradiction between economic and environmental action. Her move on hybrids adds to that sentiment. The next day, however, she announced plans for a lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico, showing she has both faces needed for Obama's "all-of-the-above" energy policy.

Jewell last week said the Interior Department would partner with the General Services Administration's vehicle initiative by replacing as many as 300 gasoline- and alternative-fueled vehicles with hybrids. That represents about 30 percent of the department's fleet and is "simply a good business decision that will benefit not only our bottom line, but reduce our carbon emissions as well," she said.

The GSA said its plans to incorporate as many as 10,000 hybrids into the federal fleet could lead to the overall reduction of around 1 million gallons of fuel. Assuming for a moment the federal government pays retail prices, the government would save about $3.7 million per year on gasoline prices, given the current estimate for regular unleaded in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area.

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Jewell helped steer REI to a retail leader in outdoor gear when she served at the helm there. When Obama rolled her out earlier this year, the American Petroleum Institute stressed the U.S." energy revolution" lies in her hands. Before ruling over REI, she spent 19 years in the commercial banking sector and as an engineer for Mobil Oil Corp. before it merged with Exxon. The day after the GSA announcement, she backed into API's corner by announcing plans to offer energy explorers more than 21 million acres offshore Texas in an August lease sale. The Gulf of Mexico, she said, is the "cornerstone of the United States' energy portfolio."

Lawmakers in the House of Representatives last week passed legislation that would open up acreage along the U.S.-Mexico maritime border. As much as 85 percent of the leasable acreage in the Gulf of Mexico, the so-called cornerstone of U.S. energy, is still off limits, API's Eric Milito testified. Opening up more acreage, he said, would add to the 8 million barrels of oil expected from the United States per day by the end of 2014. That didn't sit too well with the Sierra Club, however, which said there's "clearly enough" acreage available to keep the energy industry busy.

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Jewell said Gulf of Mexico acreage up for auction in August could lead to the production of as much as 200 million barrels of oil and 938 billion cubic feet of natural gas. Her announcement on hybrids in the wake of Earth Day, meanwhile, shows so far that she's embracing her dual legacy as an environmental steward with rare ties to the oil industry. The International Energy Agency said recently that, globally, the energy sector isn't much cleaner than it was in the 1990s. The U.S. Energy Department, meanwhile, said oil consumption was outpacing production. With less than four years left in the Obama administration, Jewell now has her work cut out for her to show that an "all-of-the-above" energy policy can tackle issues raised by those two forecasts of the future of the energy sector. Contributed by Daniel J. Graeber of Oilprice.com.

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