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Ask a Governor About Energy

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This weekend the National Governors Association will meet in Washington. With the exception of Congress itself, I can't think of a more important gathering in our country today. Why? I can sum it up with one word: leadership.

Since I launched the Pickens Plan last July, I've had the opportunity to meet with Governors from coast to coast, and there has never been any doubt in my mind that the job these men and women are elected to do is where the rubber meets the road. It's easy for me to say this because after decades working in corporate America I see each of them as the CEO of their respective states. Instead of shareholders, they report to citizens, and if they miss their numbers, well, there's a good chance they'll lose their jobs. The best ones are like business leaders such as my friend Warren Buffet. Their actions speak for themselves.

Take Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota and Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius. Two years ago, they co-chaired a National Governors Association task force called "Securing a Clean Energy Future." Back then, in 2007, singing the praises of alternative energies wasn't very popular. That was before the price of gas broke the $4 mark. Yet both of these Governors know that leadership isn't a popularity contest. It's about developing a vision, marshaling resources, and taking the necessary steps to implement your plan. That's why Minnesota is now a national leader in wind energy, ethanol production, and biodiesel fuels. That's why Kansas set a statewide renewable energy goal of 10 percent by 2010... and achieved it in 2008.

My point is that first steps are never easy, but the sooner they are taken the more quickly results become apparent. Texas is an international energy hub, but it was only a decade ago that it began developing its enormous wind energy potential. Under Governor Rick Perry's leadership, the Lone Star State became the nation's leading wind energy producer in 2006. I should also mention the importance of the Barnett Shale. Not only has it become an important domestic source of clean-burning natural gas for all Americans, but exploration and production in the Barnett are key factors in the low unemployment rate in North Texas today. As Governor Perry likes to point out, huge shales like the Barnett, the Haynesville, and the Marcellus are not only ours but natural gas is much cheaper than imported oil. That's why there's no cleaner way to run our trucking fleets than with this abundant resource. That's one of the ways Los Angeles got a handle on its pollution problem: by using natural gas to power its bus fleet.

By tradition my home state of Oklahoma has been a leading oil and natural gas producer, but Governor Brad Henry has worked diligently to see that Oklahoma doesn't miss out on opportunities related to renewable clean biofuels and wind energy, both as a producer of wind energy and a manufacturer of turbines and other equipment. Governor Henry wants to make sure his state not only supplies all the energy its citizens need but develops the type of high-paying jobs that our economy so desperately can utilize right now.

So do I.

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