Times have certainly changed since one saw bumper stickers in Oklahoma that said, “Lord, please send us another oil boom. We promise we won’t throw this one away.”
What we got was something far better – new technologies, forward-thinking companies willing to take risks, and sensible regulations which have made Oklahoma an energy leader. The Sooner State is ranked second nationally in wind energy generation, third in natural gas production, and fourth in oil production, while commercial solar generation has now gained a small but firm foothold in Oklahoma.
According to the latest Energy Information Administration data, we have the second-lowest electric costs in the nation, yet haven’t sacrificed a robust generation capacity to do that; Oklahoma is a top 20 state for net generation.
Oklahoma’s energy resources go beyond our borders, powering not only our state’s economy, but others as well. When power is dispatched to other member states in the Southwest Power Pool, Oklahoma energy plays a critical role, particularly when it comes to wind power. Oklahoma’s abundant oil and natural gas resources now are shipped around the world and are a major reason why America is on track to become energy independent as early as 2020, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
As Governor Stitt has noted, Oklahoma is already a “Top Ten State” when it comes to energy. Our energy leadership is the result of a willingness to keep learning. As writer and minister William Pollard noted, “Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.”
The energy sector is ever-changing, as are the resulting challenges that must be addressed in an open, transparent manner to ensure sound energy policy. The energy debate is in danger of degenerating into a mire of political and personal agendas, knee-jerk policies and ill-defined slogans. Venezuela’s loss of its energy sector and the resulting economic collapse are striking examples of what can happen when demagoguery replaces sound policy.
“You have the right to your own opinion. You do not have the right to your own facts,” asserted Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan.
We would do well to remember that when it comes to moving forward with an energy policy that will meet our needs now and in the future. The fact is there is no magic bullet. From wind turbines to oil wells, from solar to natural gas or coal, all have their own advantages and disadvantages. Each has its own environmental and economic issues that must be delineated and addressed. All pose their own questions that must be answered in addressing the need for affordable, reliable energy. At the same time, there is a synergy possible between all. For example, quick-start natural gas power plants can serve as the backup to wind and solar power, and oil is an essential building block of the materials used to construct wind and solar facilities.
Oklahoma has been and continues to be a top energy state, the result of Oklahoma’s energy leaders dedicating themselves to lifelong learning. To maintain the state’s critical role in powering America doesn’t require that we always agree. What it does require are innovation and leaders with open minds who are committed to a lifetime of learning.