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Our Sooner Energy Heritage

August 11, 2008
Weekly Columns

Last week I was pleased to host an energy summit in Norman with experts from across the state who shared their ideas and insights about Oklahoma's current energy situation and how our state can continue to be among the nation's leaders when it comes to energy innovation.  These experts were from diverse fields, representing nuclear energy, wind power, petroleum, and natural gas - just to name a few.  Community leaders from across the Fourth District attended the event to listen, ask questions and offer their own unique perspectives as well.  By the end of the forum a number of common sense ideas had been presented.  And, as is our history, I believe Oklahoma is well positioned to lead the way into the next generation of energy innovation.  But we still have a long way to go to achieve true energy independence for America.

Between our abundant supplies of natural gas, clean coal and known oil reserves, the United States clearly needs to make better use of what we already have.  Many of the panelists at the forum agreed that it is high time that the 27-year ban on off-shore drilling come to an end.  I couldn't agree more.  We have vast resources in ANWR and off the coasts of Florida and California that should be developed.  That is not to say that we can drill our way into energy independence, but we need to use these resources as a bridge to the next generation of alternative and renewable technologies.

Any state that proudly displays an oil rig in the front yard of their state capitol is clearly proud to be a leader in the field of energy.  And while Oklahoma certainly has a proud history in the oil business, and is among the world's leaders in the field of natural gas exploration and development, I am confident that we will take a leading role in the new emerging technologies as well.  One of the speakers at my energy summit was Mike Bergey who is the President of Bergey Windpower.  Mike emphasized the value of the state's strategic location in one of the windiest parts of the country.  He noted that Oklahoma is already producing electricity from wind power, and as more wind turbines are situated throughout the state, we will become a major wind-energy power producer.  Another renewable energy that shared the spotlight at the summit was switchgrass, an inedible product that can be converted into ethanol.  The Noble Foundation has a switchgrass project that deserves attention for its potential to expand our state's future in biofuels. 

At the end of the energy summit I was encouraged by the work our state is doing to make sure we remain a leader in the energy industry by diversifying and looking to the future as well as the present for our sources of energy.  But we still have a tremendous amount of work to do, not just in Oklahoma but all across America.  During an energy telephone town hall meeting that I had last month, I heard from thousands of individuals in the Fourth District about how the high costs of gasoline and energy are affecting their communities, work experiences and general quality of life.  I am still stirred by their stories.  Our future way of life literally depends on America getting serious about our energy challenges.

We will not solve the energy problem overnight.  But we can and should encourage knowledgeable experts to continue to conduct the important research, development and investment that will ultimately lead our nation to energy independence.  And I am confident that Oklahoma is poised to help lead the way.