By Gov. Mary Fallin
Special to The Sun
OKLA. CITY —
Recently, energy leaders, environmental experts, education professionals and a host of other industry specialists gathered in Tulsa for the Third Annual Oklahoma Governor’s Energy Conference.
The conference, which began in 2011 in Oklahoma City, has become an important yearly event and a time when academics, professionals and policymakers can brainstorm on how best to support our state’s energy industry.
As any Oklahoman knows, energy production is an essential part of our economy. In fact, one in seven Oklahomans currently works either for an energy company or a job supported by the industry. And revenue from oil and gas production taxes regularly comes in at hundreds of millions of dollars each year, helping to support Oklahoma schools, public safety and health initiatives.
We’ve all heard the term “economic stimulus,” usually from Washington politicians trying to sell their latest Big Government plan. But the truth is, the best economic stimulus we can give to Oklahoma and the nation at large is to support the remarkable Energy Revolution that Oklahoma producers are at the forefront of.
New technologies and drilling techniques spearheaded by Oklahoma producers, like horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, have forever altered the national energy landscape.
In the 1990s, many people thought that fossil fuels were a dwindling resource. Instead, new innovations have unlocked an extra 100-year supply of natural gas and more than a trillion barrels of technically recoverable oil.
As a result, the U.S. is now a net exporter of oil, helping to create American jobs and make us less reliant on hostile oil regimes. For the first time, the goal of North American Energy Independence is now within reach.
While new oil and gas reserves have changed the way we look at our energy future, that doesn’t mean that alternative energy sources are irrelevant, especially in Oklahoma.
Here in the Sooner State, we are pursuing a truly “all of the above” energy strategy and reaping the benefits of greater fuel diversity.
It will probably come as no surprise that Oklahoma ranks in the top five states for natural gas and oil production. Many are unaware, however, that we are only a little further behind when it comes to wind power, at No. 6 in the nation.
In fact, Oklahoma’s wind generation capacity grew by 50 percent in 2012, and we were one of only four states to add more than 1,000 megawatts of capacity.
Innovations in turbine technology means more wind power can be harvested at less cost, and new combined-cycle gas generation power plants are helping to integrate wind power and natural gas as complimentary energy sources.
This is not only creating new jobs in Oklahoma, it’s also helping to provide more affordable, reliable power to Oklahoma families and businesses.
My goal as governor is to support the momentum coming from our private sector and create an environment where energy production continues to thrive.
Two years ago, I laid out my plan for doing so in the state’s first comprehensive energy strategy: the Oklahoma First Energy Plan.
In it, I outlined a vision for responsible and reasonable regulation; goals (but not mandates!) for renewable energy production and an aggressive multi-state plan to bolster demand for natural gas by converting state automobile fleets to compressed natural gas. Converting to CNG cars and trucks will save millions of taxpayer dollars in fuel costs while also helping to support Oklahoma energy production and Oklahoma job creation.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, I will continue to push education — especially post-secondary education — as a means of preparing our workforce for high-skill jobs in the energy industry. Oklahoma’s Complete College America initiative, which aims to dramatically increase college degrees and career technology certificate holders in Oklahoma, is one of the ways we are achieving this goal.
All of these were topics at this year’s conference in Tulsa. I am looking forward to a continued sense of shared purpose as we work to support one of Oklahoma’s most important industries.
GOV. MARY FALLIN may be reached via her website at www.ok.gov/governor/.