Lawmaker holds alternative energy forum

Friday, September 19th 2008, 9:17 pm
By: News 9

By Amy Lester, NEWS 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Gas prices continue to cripple everyday drivers, industries and school districts.

The high prices have one lawmaker looking at ways to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

Representative Joe Dorman held an alternative energy forum Friday at the Capitol. He wants to ensure there's fuel and energy for generations to come.

Everyone feels the pinch at the pump, especially when it's $60 to fill up.

"You could do a lot with $60," Pat Morrison said. "You can take your family out to dinner, that's a lot of groceries."

All people want is some relief.

"I think the government needs to step in," Morrison said.

The government is stepping in here, but not to lower gas prices immediately.

"The numbers will range from $500 billion to $700 billion a year the U.S. will spend on importing foreign sources of oil," Bobby Wegener, Oklahoma Deputy Secretary of Energy, said.

Instead, Representative Joe Dorman is focusing on long term solutions, primarily alternative energy.

"There are so many things we have to offer, that we can be the leader in alternative fuels, we just have to take that next step and make that commitment as a legislature and citizens of the state," Dorman said.

In Dorman's energy forum, experts spoke of wind power, switch grass, compressed natural gas and tax incentives if you use them.

"You encourage people to do something that otherwise they wouldn't do without that additional incentive," Clay Pope, Executive Director of Oklahoma Conservation Districts, said.

Listening in the back is Kathryn Turner, superintendent of Fletcher schools.

"I can't afford to buy all of the text books we need at Fletcher because of the high cost of diesel fuel so I need to see what's going on and encourage our legislators to look at incentives for schools," Fletcher said.

She'd like incentives to switch school buses to compressed natural gas. Representative Dorman will consider that and other suggestions as he writes bills for next session.

"I'm going to author some type of legislation based on all forms of alternative fuels, see if we can come up with some kind of credits to help out the citizens," Dorman said.

Friday's forum was a private study, not funded by the state. Dorman asked for it to better educate lawmakers. Only a handful showed up.

House Speaker Chris Benge is also proposing tax credits to encourage the use of compressed natural gas to power vehicles. His proposal would give state tax credits to help double the number of service stations for CNG vehicles.