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Welcome to CU Public Policy Forum V

Alternative Energy: Promoting and Realizing the New Energy Frontier Today

You Are Invited to Help Shape Southwest
Oklahoma's Energy Future!

What is the issue?

The issue is Oklahoma's energy future.  This state and the region in which it is located have long been at the forefront of energy production and policy in the United States.  That will remain so into the foreseeable future, but the question is, what will that future look like?  More partisan approaches to this topic would have it that we either stick with current solutions, or give ourselves wholly over to non-fossil fuel solutions, such as wind power.  This forum set out to explore whether that was really true in practical terms.

What is the data?

In the course of the forum three things became clear.  First, energy choices are just that, choices.  There is no necessity about them until a society commits to them.  On the other hand, those commitments, once made, have consequences.  Second, the development of an energy sector is a very complex, practical process with fits and starts along the way as well as unexpected and brilliant innovations.  Third, the various players in the energy world: distributors; producers of established fuels such as oil, natural gas, and coal; and producers of non-fossil fuels need not operate in an adversarial way.  Cooperation between the various segments of the energy world is possible.  Review the following presentations to see that reality.

The Past and Present of Energy Policy in Oklahoma: A Comparative Look Data on Current Energy Distribution & Production in Oklahoma and the U.S.
Douglas Catterall "Three Energy Footprints: What Costa Rica, Denmark and Nigeria Can Teach Us" Brian Hobbs, "The Current and Future Mix of Energy Solutions in Oklahoma"

Brian Frehner, "From Creekology to Geology: Finding and Conserving Oil on the Southern Plains, 1900-1935"


Travis Narum, "Wind Farms in Oklahoma and the U.S."
Tony Wohlers, "Oil and Natural Gas in Oklahoma-The Policy Environment"
John Scott Greene, "The Current State of the Wind Energy Dialogue in Oklahoma"


What is the media saying?   

The media response to the forum was quite good.  A range of media covered the forum:

Print Media:  The CU Collegian

Visual Media: KSWO


How am I involved in energy policy?

Even if you may not think you are involved, you are!  If you use energy, its production, sale, and distribution concern you whether you know it or not.  With policy-making in this area promising to be central to the future of Southwest Oklahoma and statewide, being informed can only help as you make decisions for yourself, your family, and your community about what sort of energy future you want to live in.

Do I have a role in the debate?

Unquestionably.  Even though the forum is over, we have made available the presentations by experts in various academic fields as well as by representatives of the industries that make up the energy sector.  Make use of these presentations to formulate your own questions and approaches to the issue so that when the time comes for you to help make choices on energy policy, you will be in a position to do so.  Never doubt that your curiosity is an important part of the mix.

Why an Alternative Energy Forum?

Environmental degradation, the depletion of fossil fuels, and global warming due to the exponential growth of the human energy footprint since the industrial revolution are pushing all of Earth's inhabitants into an uncertain future.  Within the current energy climate, Oklahoma, and Southwest Oklahoma in particular, faces challenges to economic growth and prosperity in this key economic sector. Facing these challenges will require the effective use and application of existing resources, creativity, and innovation to find the right mix of energy sources to generate an enhanced quality of life. Success depends on approaching the issue of energy sector development with a new creativity and an emphasis on connecting the cultural and historical to the economic dimensions of what the energy sector has meant and will mean for Oklahomans. Rather than being primarily a question of resources, then, the future of energy in Southwest Oklahoma and elsewhere in the state will concern how energy needs are generated and how societies organize such needs through culture. Harnessing the talents of the diverse communities of Southwest Oklahoma will be a large part of what determines success in this endeavor.

Although often overlooked and frequently contested, the ways in which this cultural diversity has historically embedded itself in the region offer a path to improve quality of life in the region through innovative energy sector change. Understanding and engaging these strengths will contribute to invigorating the economy of the region and the state. In order to contribute to this critical understanding, this forum seeks to provide students, members of the general public, and community leaders in local and tribal government across Southwest Oklahoma and beyond with a deeper understanding of the linkages between the cultural and historical characteristics of the region, on the one hand, and energy provision on the other.

In response to these challenges, academic experts and entrepreneurs in Oklahoma have been exploring whether alternative (and legacy) energy might offer new solutions.  Their work has raised several crucial questions.  To address these questions in light of the latest thinking in academia and the private sector, a panel of experts has been selected to discuss Oklahoma's energy past and future and share their insights with the broader public of Southwest Oklahoma.

New Challenges, New Answers

Forum participants will seek answers to two linked sets of questions concerning the history and cultural profile of energy on the one hand and the technology and implementation of energy solutions on the other.  In the first part of the program humanities scholars from History and Political Science will examine the critical connections between society and energy provision, first from the perspective of world history, then with an eye towards the development of Southwest Oklahoma, and finally at the interface between current policy and past practices.  Humanities scholars who are also heavily engaged in social science and policy analysis will then focus these insights on three sectors of energy: natural gas, oil, and wind.  In doing so, they will link the particular historical profile of energy solutions characteristic of Oklahoma as a whole and Southwest Oklahoma in particular to specific energy sectors, showing how energy provision strategies have operated and how they might operate in the future.  Finally, experts in three different areas of the commercial energy sector in Oklahoma (natural gas, wind, and energy transmission and provision) will discuss the practicalities of moving from Southwest Oklahoma's energy present to its energy future.  The following set of questions will define the common ground for their dialogue:


  • What is the influence of culture on energy solutions?
  • What has the place of legacy fuels been in regions like Southwest Oklahoma?
  • How feasible is it to entertain replacing oil, gas, and coal in the near future and how can debates over this issue be conducted in a manner that leads towards a unified energy strategy for the state that fits the region's and the state's cultural and social characteristics?
  • Can regions like Southwest Oklahoma, long a beneficiary of its close relationship with the energy sector, profitably switch to so-called green energy?
  • Does the prospect of green energy spell the end of the energy industry as people in Southwest Oklahoma have known it and in so doing change the culture of the region and the state?

Who is Involved?


Affiliation Position Expertise
Douglas Catterall

Cameron University

Assoc. Prof. of History World History
Brian Frehner Oklahoma State University Asst. Prof. of History History of Oil in Oklahoma
Scott Greene University of Oklahoma Prof. of Geography & Director of the Oklahoma Wind Power Initiative Social & Historical Impact of Climatological Change/Cross-Disciplinary Approaches to Environmental Analysis
Brian Hobbs Western Farmers Electric Cooperative General Manager, Legal and Administration The role of wind and legacy energy in the provision strategy in rural electric cooperatives in Southwest Oklahoma
Jamie Maddy Chesapeake Energy Corporation Director of Political and Environmental Relations The role of natural gas in Oklahoma's energy Future
Travis Narum Acciona Energy North America Development Director The Role of Wind Energy in Oklahoma's Energy Future
Chris Benge Oklahoma State Legislature Speaker of the State of Oklahoma House of Representatives Energy Policy
Paul Renfrow OG & E Vice President for Public Affairs The role of wind and legacy energy in the provision strategy of major energy providers
Tony Wohlers Cameron University Assoc. Prof. of Political Science Public Policy

Questions and registration

For questions and registration, please contact:


Dr. Tony Wohlers, Forum Organizer

Tel: (580) 581-2496

Fax: (580) 581-2941 


Dr. Douglas Catterall, Speaker Coordinator

Tel: (580) 581-2949

Fax: (580) 581-2941


This program is funded in part by the Oklahoma Humanities Council (OHC) and the We People Initiative of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed during Public Policy Forum VI do not necessarily represent those of OHC or NEH. We also thank the Cameron University Lectures and Concerts Program for partial funding of the event. We thank them all for their support and encouragement of the project.


Oklahoma Humanities Council                                      Cameron University

fireworks at commencement