On Wednesday, Sally Jewell was officially appointed as the new head of the Department of the Interior. Jewell has spent her professional life outside of the political realm, which made her a desirable candidate for many people. She began her career as an engineer for Mobil Oil where she worked for several years. She later moved to finance and worked as a commercial banker until she served on the board of directors of REI, a nearly $2 billion recreational outdoors equipment company. She continued to rise to the top and eventually became CEO. It goes without saying that Jewell is not the typical career politician chosen for a position in the presidential cabinet.
Her background and experience in the oil industry gives her a different perspective and perhaps a more unique approach to energy and environmental policy. Nevertheless, thus far she has been an outspoken supporter of the president’s all-of-the-above policy, which is supposed to embrace fossil fuels as well as renewable energy. When first nominated Jewell stated she was going to take a balanced approach to environmental policy and management and wanted to expand and “diversify energy production on federal lands while protecting the environment.” After her nomination in March she stated, “from energy development to grazing to logging, tourism, and outdoor recreation, our lands and waters power our economy and jobs.” Hopefully she will focus on the economic impact of environmental policy and work for well-rounded solutions that will support growth. America cannot sustain single-minded policy that attempts to kill fossil fuels and blindly pour money into alternative energy. Oil drives the massive transportation and manufacturing industries and needs to be supported for the sake of keeping energy and gas affordable.
Though she has preached a balanced approach, her policy ideas could translate into very different reforms depending on the direction she takes. The president’s administration has been anything but accepting to expanded oil drilling and has poured money into alternative energy R&D. It will be very interesting to see how Jewell confronts the hot energy issues of today, along with Obama’s expansive environmental goals.
In any case, her background in the private sector may very well give her a pragmatic perspective on policy. She will need to find a medium between land conservation and energy production as America continues to go through this time of economic stress. Jewell is a unique pick for this position and hopefully will bring much needed solid and sustainable energy policy solutions to the table during Obama’s final term.