HOUSTON -- Former Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar came to Houston to eat crow on Wednesday as he gave the opening keynote at the Winter NAPE Business Conference. The Colorado Democrat reflected on his days as a senator and member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, recalling that, in 2005, he told the Senate that energy independence was nothing more than an illusion. The U.S. at the time was importing 60% of its oil, and was projected to import 70% by 2020.

“Now, things have changed,” Salazar, who served as Interior Secretary under President Obama from 2009 to 2013, told the NAPE crowd. “We are on the verge of developing a new energy independence for the United States of America. So those mirages and those illusions, those are things of the past. Industry, government and all of you are working to make it a reality.”

Salazar credited technological advances, such as hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, with the trend toward American energy independence, along with advances in efficiency, such as vehicles that get higher miles per gallon (mpg) rates. But he also credited the modern legal framework with contributing to what he called the country’s “newfound energy confidence.” In particular, he pointed to the bipartisan Energy Policy Act of 2005 and the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.

“It is true that Washington sometimes seems to be very broken,” he said. “But at least during that time, 2005, 2006, and 2007, we were able to work together as Democrats and Republicans to pull together energy legislation that was helpful, to help create incentives to make some of this happen.”

Indeed, Salazar spent a good portion of his speech calling on greater collaboration between government and industry.

“I do think if we’re going to sustain the path of progress that we are on, we need to look at how we have worked in collaboration to get to where we are today, and also take those lessons and apply them to some of the challenges we face in America today, and what you face as an industry,” he said. He recalled the days after the Macondo accident in 2010, in which 11 people died and 17 others were injured, and in which 200 million gallons of oil flowed into the Gulf of Mexico from the runaway well.

“It was a very unfortunate accident,” he said. “But the fact is