The event, which goes by NAPE for short, takes place in Houston twice a year and connects oil and gas companies and landowners.
Salazar was the secretary of the interior under Barack Obama from 2009 to early last year. Most prominently, he led the response to the BP oil spill in 2010.
In his keynote remarks, Salazar focused on American energy independence. He reminded attendees of a speech he gave as a senator in 2005 when he said the idea of energy independence was brought up in the past by Presidents Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter.
“From 1970 when those presidents of our nation called out for energy independence we were importing about 30 percent of our oil from foreign countries. By the time I gave this speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate in 2005, we were importing 60 percent of our oil from foreign countries.”
He says things have changed since then and we are now importing only about 38 percent of the oil that is used in the United States.
“We’ve come a long ways in that way. And it’s expected, given the projections that they have, that we will be importing only 28 percent of U.S. consumption in a few years ahead, and so we are doing very well.”
Salazar says this oil and gas “revolution” can be attributed to three factors: new technologies, new laws that have encouraged energy production and improvements in energy efficiency of cars and in homes, for example.
One big factor on the technology side, he says, is the use of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. That drilling process produces more natural gas and oil from the earth but there is concern among many about its environmental impact.
Salazar says he’s spent a lot of time learning about fracking and he believes the method is safe.
“Now there’s a caveat that the construction of the wells have to be done in an appropriate way and so in a well bore integrity in the constructional well will ensure that you’re not having any of the hydraulic fracking materials leaking out into the water baring water supply formations.”
Jesse Lee, who owns a cyber security consulting firm, says he was inspired by the speech and the prospect of energy independence. But he has a slightly more careful view on fracking.
“I think it’s wise as a population to keep an eye on it and I think it’s wise to see oil and gas companies invest in keeping a close eye on it and advancing technologies so that it can continue to be safe. But I also think it’s wise to move forward with trying these new things so that new technologies can be developed.”
The NAPE will go on until Friday at the George R. Brown Convention Center.
NAPE Expo 2014: Former Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar's entire keynote speech: