• Merideth VanSant

Light the Spark for Oklahoma’s Energy Industry

Oil and gas run as deep in Oklahoma’s history as they do in the ground, and energy remains crucial for our state’s economy today. Oklahomans deserve a Representative in Congress who will stand with President Trump to expand energy production, secure America’s energy independence, and foster innovation, so that oil and gas continue to fire the Oklahoma economy for years to come. On April 15, 1897, a crowd of fifty gathered around a tall oil rig, watching a young woman with an explosive charge in her hand. Women, men, boys, and girls stood silent: they knew that down below in the darkness of the well shaft lay a nitroglycerin bomb waiting for the spark from that charge, the spark that would open up the well. And they knew that down below that, deep down below in the ground, lay the oil—but they didn’t know how much. The crowd soon found out how much oil there was: Jennie Cass opened her hand, and the charge fell, lighting a spark. With a thunderous blast, that spark shattered the cap, unlocking an ocean of oil. A geyser of crude shot up into the sky out of what would become Nellie Johnstone Well No. 1, the first commercially productive oil well in Oklahoma. Americans came from across the nation to work the great Oklahoma City Oil Field. Oil production rose and fell with time and rose again, and for generations of Oklahomans fed their families, grew their businesses, and built their fortunes on top of Jennie Cass’s ocean of oil. Right now, our energy industry is in a down cycle, and many Oklahoma families are struggling because of it. As companies scale back and restructure their operations in the STACK/SCOOP, they’ve had to sell assets and even lay off workers. But the vast reserves of oil and natural gas beneath the red dirt of Oklahoma remain one of our State’s most valuable resources, and now more than ever, it’s crucial that we support the energy industry. Oil and gas contribute $1 out of every $5 to our state’s Gross Domestic Product, creating $20.4 billion in GDP in 2016 alone, and providing jobs for over 128,000 Oklahomans. The industry also directly or indirectly provides 1 out of every 5 of our State’s jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars of funding for education. Oklahoma ranks third in the nation in natural gas production, fourth in the nation for crude oil, and our productivity has a global impact. Last November, our state’s energy helped the United States mark a new milestone: we became a net exporter of oil, selling more US oil to other nations than we buy from them. Energy independence makes America stronger abroad and more prosperous at home. In combination with President Trump’s new free trade agreements, our surging domestic energy industry will also greatly increase our nation’s competitiveness in foreign markets—bringing the benefits right back home to Oklahoma. Oklahoma energy workers and their families are struggling with the recent downturn. But Representative Kendra Horn has turned a blind eye to their struggles. Last year, Horn repeatedly voted with the other Democrats in Congress to block the expansion of oil drilling and increase the red tape that makes it harder for energy companies to go about their daily work. Horn’s votes broke with a long tradition of support for the energy. As the Oklahoman noted in a story on her controversial stand against drilling, even our two previous Democratic Congressmen were strong supporters of oil and gas, because they knew that companies like Devon Energy & Chesapeake Energy hire Oklahoma workers. With her votes, Kendra Horn betrayed those workers when they most needed her support. Oklahomans deserve a Representative who stands with them in bad times as well as in good. Now more than ever, our Representative should stand with the President to stop drilling bans and expand access to energy, support trade deals that keep America energy independent, and fund research to invent the technologies that will drive the next boom in Oklahoma energy. Today, just like 123 years ago, Oklahoma sits atop an ocean of prosperity. Like Jennie Cass, we hold in our hands the charge that will tap that ocean. All we have to do is light the spark.

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