In announcing a new plan for oil and gas leasing earlier this week, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar made it clear that the Obama administration is taking a different tack from its predecessor when it comes to offering public land up for drilling.
"The difference is that under the prior administration, the oil and gas industry were essentially the kings of the world," said Salazar. "Whatever they wanted to happen essentially happened. This department was essentially a handmaiden of the oil and gas industry."
"We have brought that to an end," he continued.
Salazar, who had quite a week between this big announcement and the rumors that he might head back to Colorado to run for governor, ticked off plenty of oil fans with the remark. The most virulent response, however, has come from Oklahoma Democratic Rep. Dan Boren, who blasted off what his own office described as a "blistering letter" to Salazar:
Why do policy-makers within the administration deny the connection between your so-called American energy "kings of the world" and the millions of American jobs they provide? The companies affected by these reforms are not global corporate conglomerates. Rather, they are smaller, independent producers that drill 90 percent of the wells in the U.S. struggling to stay alive in this dwindling economy. To these companies, and the people behind them whose blood, sweat, and tears have helped to build this country, statements such as your "kings of the world" comment are a profound affront.
Of course, Boren's earnest defense of the oil industry isn't too unexpected. His is among the most dismal environmental records for congressional Democrats, with a 36 percent grade from the League of Conservation Voters in the 110th Congress, and a 27 lifetime score. He was also one of the Democrats who voted against the House climate bill last June.
He is, however, a favorite of the oil and gas industry. It has been his biggest contributor during his three terms in office, at $484,360. Which of course puts his valiant defense of the industry in perspective.