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Energy Conference addresses energy industry problems

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The conference addressed everything from the challenges facing oil and gas producers, to the emergence of bio-fuels. The conference addressed everything from the challenges facing oil and gas producers, to the emergence of bio-fuels.
Conference officials said Oklahoma has positioned itself, not only as a leader in bio-energy research, but also, potentially, as a producer of different bio-energy feed stocks. Conference officials said Oklahoma has positioned itself, not only as a leader in bio-energy research, but also, potentially, as a producer of different bio-energy feed stocks.

By Alex Cameron, NEWS 9

The record-high gas prices we're seeing have most of us wondering where it's going to stop.

How high will prices go? Why is this happening and what's being done to develop alternative fuels? It's a desperate situation in need of answers.

Oklahoma State University's second Energy Conference at the Cox Convention Center brought together many of the top executives and finest minds in Oklahoma's nationally recognized energy industry.

A major announcement at the conference Wednesday in the world of bio-fuel development was a 1,000-acre switch grass plot in the Oklahoma panhandle.

"We've called it sort of a living laboratory, a living classroom, so research side, we've got to understand how this crop treats the soil in a cultivated fashion," Steven Rhines with the Noble Foundation said. "How does the crop respond to being harvested, over and over again?"

Answering those questions about switch grass and other cellulosic bio-fuels is taking on increasing importance as the production of corn-based ethanol faces growing criticism.

"It's not a clean fuel," Devon Energy CEO Larry Nichols said. "It takes food out of the mouths of poor people around the world. It is having a serious adverse impact on food prices worldwide."

Nichols said he's all for developing alternative energy, but said this is no time for the nation to turn its back on oil and gas. He said prices at the pump will drop, if we develop more supply; the resources are there, he said, if only the government would let Devon and others go after them.

"We are prohibited anywhere in the Atlantic Coast, anywhere in the Pacific Coast, anywhere in the offshore Gulf of Mexico, anywhere in the eastern half of the Gulf of Mexico," Nichols said. "There is no country in the world that comes anywhere close to the United States in restricted areas that we can drill."

And until the government develops a more reasonable energy policy, Nichols predicts motorists will continue to see volatile gas prices.

Others who spoke Wednesday included SandRidge CEO Tom Ward, talking about increasing the practice of injecting CO2 into existing oilfields to extract more oil, and T-Boone Pickens said he thinks oil will hit $125 a barrel before it levels off.

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