U.S. Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Ranking Member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, today commented on President-elect Barack Obama’s nomination of U.S. Senator Ken Salazar (D-CO) for the position of Secretary of Interior and former Democratic Governor of Iowa, Tom Vilsack, as Secretary of Agriculture

Senator Inhofe Comments on Senator Salazar’s Nomination:

“Having worked with Ken in the Senate over the past four years, I am well aware of his passion and knowledge on lands issues,” Senator Inhofe said.

 “The position of Secretary of Interior is particularly important to Oklahoma as some of our state’s most pressing issues fall under the Interior’s jurisdiction. As a Colorado native, Ken has long worked on some of these same issues and I know he shares a common interest in them.

“Ken is someone that I know will reach across the aisle to get things done. As the Ranking Member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, I worked closely with Ken on legislation to clean up abandoned mines across the West and on legislation incentivizing efficient geothermal heat pump use in homes and federal buildings.

“I intend to work with Ken to ensure the Department of the Interior does all it can to increase our domestic energy production in the West. 

A vast majority of Americans have demonstrated strong support for finding more energy here at home and lessening our dependence on foreign oil.  The Western United States holds vast new resources in oil shale.  The U.S. Department of Energy has reported that oil shale in the Western U.S., much of which lies on federal lands, hold reserves of between 1 and 2 trillion barrels of new oil.  This year, Congress removed a prior barrier to allow the Department of the Interior to allow commercial oil shale leasing for exploration and development of these reserves.  Development of these reserves is crucial, and Ken must not allow extreme environmental agendas to get in the way of American energy independence.

“The next President faces the challenge of balancing the environment with the reality of our current economic downturn.  As falling gas prices have finally provided a welcome relief to families in tough economic times, my concern is President Obama’s energy team may be willing to restrict energy supplies and drive energy prices higher, harming already struggling Americans.  We simply cannot allow that to happen.”

Senator Inhofe Comments on former Governor Vilsack’s Nomination:

“Former Governor Vilsack could take the reins of the U.S. Agriculture Department at a very challenging time,” Senator Inhofe said.

 “As unprecedented budget deficits accumulate due to the federal government’s response to the financial crisis, Governor Vilsack will face the difficult challenge of navigating proposed cuts to the budget for U.S. agriculture spending. 

Should he be confirmed, I hope that Governor Vilsack is successful in weighing the needs of rural America against the general need to reduce federal spending.

“Governor Vilsack has made some encouraging comments about the need to transition from corn-based ethanol, which increases feed and food costs, to cellulosic ethanol, which holds the promise of abundant renewable fuels without the market distortions that show up in higher grocery bills for American consumers.

 I have long supported and secured crucial funding for cellulosic research in Oklahoma.  Today, world-class scientists at Oklahoma State University, the Noble Foundation, and the University of Oklahoma are conducting new research and developing new opportunities in this promising field. I appreciate Governor Vilsack’s position and I look forward to working with him on this important issue.

“There are two issues on which Governor Vilsack and I disagree.  Governor Vilsack supports the so-called ‘packer ban’ to be imposed on America’s farmers and ranchers.

This policy would have a devastating impact on Oklahoma’s livestock industry. 

Should such a policy be contemplated in the future, I will work to see that it is defeated in the U.S. Senate. 

Secondly, Governor Vilsack is on record supporting an aggressive, job-killing cap-and-trade regime for carbon emissions. 

Having worked closely with farmers and ranchers in my state on this issue, it’s clear that such a policy would have a devastating impact on America’s farmers and ranchers.

 In addition, an aggressive program to cap carbon emissions necessarily means higher fuel and electricity bills.  Given the current weak state of our economy, this huge tax on energy would be completely irresponsible and potentially disastrous.  I look forward to working with Governor Vilsack to address these concerns.”