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Lankford: Canceling traditional energy isn’t the solution

By Senator James Lankford (R-OK)

Did you enjoy the recent free trial of living in Alaska? The sub-zero temperatures in the entire region challenged our families, our first responders, our churches, our nonprofits, and our energy infrastructure. The weather tested our resolve and our power framework. The first was proven again; the second was pushed beyond its limits. Ice-encased wind towers, snow-covered solar panels, frozen natural gas well heads all decreased electricity production and dramatically increased the costs to heat our homes and run our businesses. The words “energy diversity,” “base power,” and “system resilience” were the buzz words for a week, but they should be the priority moving forward.

No question: everyone wants clean air, land, and water. But, when the rolling blackouts started in the sub-zero temperatures, everyone also wanted to know how we can keep the power on. I have stayed in close contact with our Oklahoma and regional energy partners to assess the risks, reasons, and response for the rolling blackouts. We have also discussed ways to protect consumers from major price spikes on their energy bill and maintain energy supplies for the future. People see that there are real consequences on the wall switch and in their wallet when we have an over-reliance on energy sources that can fail or are unprepared during peak usage.

I was recently asked to serve on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to bring the Oklahoma perspective to the nation. In Oklahoma, we know just about every business is connected to energy producers in some way. Oklahoma produces nearly five percent of all the oil used in the country, nine percent of all the natural gas used, and more than 10 percent of the wind electricity. We are truly an all-of-the-above energy state with 45 percent of Oklahoma’s energy coming from renewable sources. Sadly, some in the media and on social media continue the narrative that states like ours just need to find another place for people to work because all traditional energy is “cancelled.” But as we’ve seen this past week, if you don’t have a baseload power on the coldest and the hottest days of the year, you could have a real crisis at the worst possible moment.  

I have already reached out to President Biden to ask for an energy meeting in the White House to talk about the importance of energy diversity, mineral leasing on federal lands, and pipeline permitting. This is more than a conversation about jobs, which is obviously important; it is about American energy independence, system resilience, and helping those in poverty get access to reliable inexpensive energy. 

Our national energy policy directly affects our current jobs, our take-home pay, and our future opportunities, but it also reflects our values. As I mentioned before, we all want clean air and water, but we also do not want to empower major human rights abusers like communist China when we buy solar panels and rare earth minerals from them. China maintains abhorrent child-labor practices and deplorable working conditions, which some leaders ignore to advance their clean-climate agenda. We should produce resources in America so we do not benefit the communist Chinese government and instead maintain our energy independence.

I support all Oklahoma energy sources, but we should remember that each one has strengths and weaknesses. Expanding our energy diversity and our ability to produce clean, reliable, and affordable base power in the peak usage moments should be one of our top goals for the future.