Robert Wegener may not have a long history as Oklahoma’s energy secretary, but he is looking deep to the state’s future as a producer of oil, gas and alternative fuels. He pumped up all three sources during a Wildcatter Wednesday talk at the Tulsa Country Club. Wegener was appointed by Gov. Brad Henry in December after serving nearly four years as a deputy to previous Energy Secretary David Fleischaker. Wildcatter Wednesday is a monthly luncheon and industry series sponsored by the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association. Oil and gas will remain the economic engines driving the state’s economy for a long time, Wegener pointed out to the crowd of producers. Any public policy in the years ahead, however, must include cellulosic biofuels, wind energy and other electrical generation sources such as nuclear and coal. Oil prices have plummeted lately but growing world demand will eventually return and costs will go back up, the secretary noted. Oklahoma and the United States are using more oil than they used to, but producing less. The power of oil production now mainly lies in the hands of foreign, other hostile nations. Wegener quoted the maxim that America is now funding both sides of the war on terror. "Let’s spend it in America if we can,” he said. One ample source of power domestically is natural gas, Wegener pointed out. New exploration and production gains have made it more abundant, while it also burns cleaner and more efficiently than other generation fuels such as coal. The state and nation should consider natural gas for fleet vehicles and to take some of the burden off of foreign oil imports, Wegener added. It may also buy time until the next generation of power sources, possibly biofuels, becomes market ready. "Natural gas: this is the perfect bridge fuel,” the energy secretary said. "It’s going to be part of any alternative energy future we have.” Utility companies also will have to embrace demand side technology, such as innovations to help consumers use less energy to heat or cool their homes. Business logic normally discourages producers from investing in technologies that encourages less consumption, he admitted. But the truth is that delaying the need for new power generation is cost-effective, Wegener said. For instance, producing 1,000 megawatts of nuclear-fired power can cost about $6 billion, while the same level of coal-fired generation costs $2.5 billion, according to reports. "It’s cheaper to buy efficiency than buy new generation sources,” Wegener said.
"Natural gas: this is the perfect bridge fuel.”
Oklahoma Energy Secretary
Oklahoma Energy Secretary