This week the Obama administration made a commitment to coal power during a visit to Wyoming. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced 758 tons of coal will become available in the coming months as leases on public lands in the Powder River Basin take place.

The coal will give the coal industry in Wyoming an additional year and a half of production based on current production levels. The sale of the leases could total $21.3 billion in revenue that is split, almost evenly, between the federal government and the state of Wyoming. The trip back West for Salazar was apparently a good time for the Interior Secretary to reveal his stance on a few issues on many minds these days.

Commitment to coal

It’s hard to make such a big announcement about coal energy and not let that be the focus. Beyond the big royalty numbers and the larger production numbers, the announcement is another example of an administration that has an odd relationship with coal. While campaigning for cap-and-trade policies and emissions restrictions, members of the administration have talked about investing in clean coal — as seen in Wyoming this week — and they have opened up federal lands for coal production. "Coal is a critical component of America's comprehensive energy portfolio as well as Wyoming's economy,” said Salazar. We need energy. We have coal. Pretty simple.

Nuclear power not going anywhere

Of course, there will be talk of the future of nuclear power in the wake of the earthquakes and tsunami in Japan. CNN reported that Salazar touched on nuclear power during his coal announcement, saying that the United States needs to enhance precautions, but that nuclear isn’t going anywhere. "Nuclear energy as a significant component of the energy future of the United States remains unchanged," Salazar said.

Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead used that pulpit to advocate for streamlining the process to increase nuclear production in the United States. Mead emphasized that nuclear power can be developed safely and called the regulation of the industry, “too cumbersome.” The governor added, "You can have all the safety and all the environmental stuff you can, but you need a timeline that is reasonable."

Middle East uncertainty a factor

And let’s not forget about the developments in Libya. Oil prices have been on a roller coaster journey. So, naturally, the topic of Libya came up at an event dedicated to developing a domestic energy source. "We ought not be subjected to the ups and downs of what happens in the Middle East or in Libya, so part of it is moving us towards an energy-independent America," said Salazar.

Talking about more than just coal
The Obama administration tips its hand on a number of energy policy issues during a press conference about coal leases in the West.