Monday, December 5, 2011
By Governor Mary Fallin
Oklahoma has always been a leader in producing American energy. With one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation, we’re also doing a great job of creating American jobs. At a time when many other states are experiencing high unemployment, Oklahoma is continuing to see strong economic growth, and the energy sector has been an extremely important part of that success story.
Oil and natural gas companies support over 300,000 jobs in the state. In many ways, the industry represents Oklahoma’s economic backbone. Renewable energy, like wind power, is also growing quickly, employing over 3,000 Oklahomans and adding $13 million a year in property tax and land lease payments. Washington should take note: Oklahoma is seeing economic stimulus, job growth and increased revenues – not through tax increases or big government – but because of a healthy private sector and thriving energy industries.
All of this is great news for the state. To make sure Oklahoma remains a leader in energy production, however, our leaders must continue to support energy policies that encourage production, investment and ingenuity. To further that goal, I have introduced the Oklahoma First Energy Plan, a comprehensive agenda seeking to promote all forms of energy production, encourage energy efficiency, and to train and connect a highly skilled workforce with energy-related jobs.
The Oklahoma First plan begins with an aggressive push to promote natural gas infrastructure through an exciting bipartisan, multistate initiative. Together with Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, I have asked other states to join us in committing to purchase natural gas vehicles (NGV) for our state fleets. As of this week, Colorado and Oklahoma have now been joined by Utah, Pennsylvania, Wyoming and Maine. Each state has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) outlining a goal to purchase, as a group, a minimum of 5,000 NGVs per year. We believe that commitment will provide the incentive for at least one American car manufacturer to begin producing an affordable natural gas sedan.
There are many benefits to promoting NGVs in our state fleets. First, an affordable NGV will save taxpayer dollars in fuel costs. Second, the influx of thousands of state-owned natural gas vehicles will encourage the creation of natural gas infrastructure – such as CNG fueling stations – in the private sector. That in turn will benefit consumers who choose to purchase NGVs for their family automobiles, and help to create a market for the fuel source of the future: clean burning, affordable natural gas.
By supporting natural gas production and consumption, we are supporting an environmentally friendly, American energy source. Not only will that bolster our economic security by creating jobs, it will improve our national security by helping to wean the United States off of foreign oil.
While Washington continues to search for a coherent energy policy, Oklahoma and Colorado – along with four other states—are charting a path forward that will not only support American energy production, but provide both taxpayer savings and real economic stimulus.
Our multistate NGV initiative is only the first step in a far-reaching energy agenda. The Oklahoma First Energy Plan outlines a number of strategies for energy conservation, innovative research, workforce training and job placement and the support of energies as diverse as wind power, solar power and bio fuels. I invite anyone who is interested in the future of energy in Oklahoma to read the plan at www.governor.ok.gov.
I’m proud to have the honor of serving a state that is leading the way in the production of American-made energy, and I believe we now have a plan to ensure that Oklahoma continues to be a leader in that field for a long time to come.