Natural Gas Said Key to Diversification

Article excerpt

The 21st Century could be the coming of age for natural gas ideals touted for many years by Robert Hefner III, president of The GHK Co. in Oklahoma City.

Timing of his remarks Tuesday coincided somewhat with the Governor's Energy Conference in downtown Oklahoma City Wednesday and today's Compressed Natural Gas Conference.

"Natural gas is the principal energy to fuel the U.S. and global economy," said Hefner, the pioneering wildcatter who successfully drilled the first deep natural gas well, 24,454 feet down. "It will be the most efficient, clean, cheap source of energy that there is to keep us competitive going into the 21st Century.

"Energy is the most fundamental thing in an economic system. If you don't have a good energy system then all your goods and services are costing more vis-a-vis your competitors."

In a globalized economy - which is more of a concern as 1992 nears bringing online the European market cooperative - such issues are imperative to address, Hefner said.

"It's really a technological system and I suspect that's something that won't be brought up at the (governor's) conference," he said.

"They'll say some few things: That yes, natural gas is the future; that on a (British thermal unit) basis, of course, the greatest energy source Oklahoma has is not coal, is not oil, it's natural gas.

"But if that's all we think about then we'll continue to be a Third World country and be an exporter of products."

The integrated side of natural gas and technology must be explored and capitalized upon, he said.

"If you think of it that way and sell it for diversification of Oklahoma's economy," he said, "you have the synergistic effect of the development of technology that is within in the natural gas system.

"We could be the Detroit of natural gas fueled vehicles. There is no reason it shouldn't be Oklahoma.

"I would like to see this state take an incredible leadership role in the development of natural gas and energy technology."

This aspect, he said, would create net industry for Oklahoma, broadening the tax base and providing employment.

State politicians and policymakers must come to understand the role of natural gas, he said. The governor's office has used oil overcharge funds to launch natural gas conversions at Tulsa and Enid schools plus some state vehicles, but it has been reluctant to embrace mandates for the program.

Mandates are the logical impetus to bring natural gas to the forefront such as with natural gas vehicles, Hefner said, although adding he dislikes mandates. He said he supports draft legislation proposed by Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner Jim Townsend that would mandate conversion of school buses and government vehicles to natural gas.

"Oklahoma has more reason than any of the other producing states to involve itself in a national leadership role for the natural gas industry," Hefner said. "And by that, I mean the total energy technology. …

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