Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne
GLENN: 888-727-BECK, it's Closed Line Friday. We have the secretary of the interior, Dirk Kempthorne, on with us. Hello, Dirk, Mr. Secretary, I'm sorry.
INTERIOR SECRETARY KEMPTHORNE: I'm good, Glenn. And call me Dirk. That's fine.
GLENN: I really want to like you, I really do but you hack me off with the polar bear thing.
INTERIOR SECRETARY KEMPTHORNE: We had that discussion.
GLENN: I know we did. I just, I can't believe that there was nothing you could do about keeping them off the endangered species list.
INTERIOR SECRETARY KEMPTHORNE: Yeah. The problem is, Glenn, their habitat is the ice and it's melting and we have the NASA and the USGS satellite photographs and everything. That's why I put them on the threatened, not endangered.
GLENN: Right. But doesn't their population count at all?
INTERIOR SECRETARY KEMPTHORNE: It does.
GLENN: Population has gone up from 5,000 to 25,000.
INTERIOR SECRETARY KEMPTHORNE: It has. And much of that is based on hunting has been restricted. In this ruling we found oil and gas activity has no effect on the polar bear and since 1972 we have been operating under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which is more stringent than the Endangered Species Act. So on this ruling I simply married the two together so that the activities of those that have been operating for 30-plus years under Marine Mammal Protection Act, they understand how it works and so it doesn't change how they operate.
GLENN: Okay. Let me talk about what the President didn't do that I don't understand. Why didn't the President say, enough of no offshore drilling, let me rescind my executive order. I know that it wouldn't start it up but at least it would have been the first step towards it.
INTERIOR SECRETARY KEMPTHORNE: That's correct. He wanted to find an incentive for congress that would say, all right, I'm now ready to lift my withdrawal, you do the same thing and let's get going. It also allows for the states to have input and the President being a former governor, respects the rule of states and so he said he's ready to put the key in. He will turn his -- and we just need congress to now do the same.
GLENN: But why wouldn't it put more pressure on if he turned his key?
INTERIOR SECRETARY KEMPTHORNE: Again it's not an incentive to say there's a factor. You can't use an executive order with regard to withdrawal. That's not a factor. We're ready to go and let's send a signal.
GLENN: But wait, it's not like a nuclear -- we are not sending nuclear missiles, you don't have to turn the key at the same time. Let's just say Barack Obama gets in but, you know, we have a Republican congress for, you know, some -- hey, a meteor could hit us in the middle of the night and we now have an executive order key that hasn't been turned but we do have a congress key that we could turn and now we're stuck again. Why wouldn't he just turn his key?
INTERIOR SECRETARY KEMPTHORNE: Well, let's hope that we get enough pressure on congress to do something that the American families let congress know that this $4 a gallon gas just is having a real impact on us and the President has now said his withdrawal is ready to go. It's not a factor and let's have congress now cooperate. We need to do it cooperatively and that is something we do need to establish in Washington and this also gives the states an opportunity for input.
GLENN: Okay. Tell me a little bit about the resources that we do have here in the country.
INTERIOR SECRETARY KEMPTHORNE: Off the coast we have 85% of developable resources that are off limits to development currently, 85%. For us in this supply and demand predicament to say to the foreign producers of oil, you need to increase your supply, when we don't do it here at home is not right. And so we have the technology which we've demonstrated. We know how to do it with the greatest of environmental sensitivity and we now need to say let's get going.
GLENN: Is it true that there is more seepage, natural seepage at the bottom of the sea coming up from oil than there would be if we were drilling for oil?
INTERIOR SECRETARY KEMPTHORNE: We have 150 times more natural seepage than we get seepage from the oil and gas platforms.
GLENN: So it's a naturally occurring event to get the seepage.
INTERIOR SECRETARY KEMPTHORNE: Oh, yes, absolutely. And in fact, up in the tundra, in the Alaska you have seepage and for decades and decades they will cut out pieces of the tundra with that oil in it and they use it as fire starter.
GLENN: And the CO2 from coal, can that now be sequestered safely and put down back into the ground?
INTERIOR SECRETARY KEMPTHORNE: Well, the science is being developed and, you know, it looks like great promise.
GLENN: Is it possible to be energy independent in this country with all of the resources that we have?
INTERIOR SECRETARY KEMPTHORNE: I don't know when we would achieve that independence, Glenn, but I'll tell you we could make significant strides in reducing our reliance on foreign sources of our energy. That's what we should be doing. We need to get going on the oil and gas development. And again, you look at the record down there in the Gulf of Mexico. 4,000 oil and gas platforms. When Katrina and Rita hit, which was the worst hurricane in our history, 3,000 of those oil platforms were in the direct line of fire of those hurricanes. All systems worked. The valves under the floor of the ocean were shut off. No major seepage. No loss of life. It just shows you that we do have the technology when we get going. In the United States where we're on the land and doing this, we now what used to traditionally be 10 acres were wellhead, we're getting it down to now 1/2 an acre per wellhead because of directional drilling which we've learned to do from the offshore activities. You can go down and go in any direction up to 10 miles underground and tap the reserves.
GLENN: Harry Reid says that this is just more of the failed policies of the past, going we can drill our way out of this problem.
INTERIOR SECRETARY KEMPTHORNE: We need to have a mixed portfolio but the President has directed this department. We're doing a variety of things on alternatives such as geothermal, solar, wind-power, looking at wave currents, et cetera. But on the alternative, and renewable sources of power, but I don't think anybody believes that we're going to somehow overnight not need the fossil fuels for the foreseeable future. They are very much a part of our necessity for economic activity and our national security.
GLENN: If you don't think anybody believes that, then explain to me what the Democrats do believe.
INTERIOR SECRETARY KEMPTHORNE: We're in a political climate right now and again, the President's been very forthcoming in saying, all right, his withdrawals, his executive order are not an issue. He's ready to lift them.
GLENN: I understand that, but -- because the only -- look, Mr. Secretary. We're looking for somebody to tell us the truth. We're looking for somebody to make sense to us, and the only thing that we can make sense, that makes sense to most people is let's start looking for our own resources, let's develop other things, let's go ahead and put nukes on the table, let's put wind on the table and solar power but so many people in Washington won't do that, the Democrats won't do those things but, you know, honestly, Mr. Secretary, the answer of the President not turning his key doesn't make sense to me but, you know, I'm not going to get a straight answer, I don't think, on that. Will somebody please do something.
INTERIOR SECRETARY KEMPTHORNE: It's not a matter of not getting a straight answer. We've given you a straight answer. I'm just not going to try to articulate why the Democrats won't do it. I don't understand it.
GLENN: No, I don't, either. I'm not asking you to speak for the Democrats. I was on the President but, you know, that's a different story. I got the answer to that.
INTERIOR SECRETARY KEMPTHORNE: Okay.
GLENN: I just can't figure it out. And we are in deep, deep trouble, are we not, sir, if we don't move?
INTERIOR SECRETARY KEMPTHORNE: My goodness. Ask American citizens. Ask the men and women that are trying to run a business that now have the rising energy costs and what it's doing to their bottom line.
GLENN: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary.