An Energy Policy for Oklahoma?

Article excerpt

Does Oklahoma have a state energy policy?

With attention being focused on the national energy policy legislation of President George W. Bush it may be time for Oklahoma's governor and Legislature to begin looking at a state plan of its own.

Immediately prior to the August recess the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives approved legislation that is a striking affirmation of the president's energy policy. It passed the Securing America's Energy Future (SAEF) Act of 2001 by a vote of 240 to 189.

No doubt the legislation will face tougher times in the Senate, but some encouraging signs have recently come from that Democratic- controlled body. It certainly would be a major step toward a national energy policy.

And what role do states have in the development of that policy? An important one according to Gov. Frank Keating. At a recent National Governor's Association meeting he stressed the need for state involvement.

"Energy issues must be addressed nationally, but state and local authority over energy and environmental matters needs to be maintained. It would be a mistake to develop a national policy without the full cooperation and partnership with the states and their governors," he said.

A National Governor's Association Natural Resources committee of which the governor is vice chairman, made a series of recommendations dealing mostly with domestic production and refining capacity. Keating called it a "balanced approach to conservation, consumption, environmental concerns and protection of the domestic oil industry."

As far as a national energy policy for fossil fuel is concerned environmentalists have been big stumbling blocks. Another problem in the past has been lack of agreement, not only in the petroleum industry but among other energy producing sources. That same lack of agreement has occurred between governors from major consuming states and those of producer states.

The result in this case was a matter of agreeing on concepts. In fact the policies the committee outlined lacked specificity.

It is much easier to reach agreement on broad principles and indefinite statements. The problem comes with the details of implementing them. There was little said about how these general statements can be brought to fruition, but the passage of H.R. 4, the SAEF Act by the U.S. House is a definite step in that direction.

Since, as Keating said, the states need to be a factor in any national energy policy, it is equally important they should have similar policies within their own boundaries. These would be aimed at implementing and expanding the national energy policy, and be directed toward similar goals applicable to their particular needs and goals.

Goals for the future

Rep. Larry Rice, D-Pryor, believes an energy policy needs to be developed for Oklahoma. As chairman of the House Energy and Utility Regulation, he has joined with Sen. Kevin Easley to co-sponsor a joint interim study to develop a policy for state energy resources. Easley serves as chair of the Senate Energy and Regulatory affairs Committee.

Rice said he expects the joint committee will begin work in October and continue through November and perhaps into December.

"I want some type of energy policy that will establish goals of where Oklahoma should be in 20 or 25 years."

Rice added the joint committee will be looking at all energy sources, including oil and gas, electricity, coal, and renewables. …

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