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Lankford Takes on Biden’s Progressive Climate-change Agenda that Will Lead to Higher Prices for Oklahomans

CLICK HERE to watch Lankford’s complete remarks on YouTube.

WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today served as lead Republican in a hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Government Operations and Border Management entitled, “Strategies for Improving Critical Energy Infrastructure,” which examined the importance of grid reliability and ensuring we have an adequate energy supply while Oklahomans await rumored higher energy costs for natural gas and electricity use this winter.

Today’s hearing included panel member Mr. Lanny Nickell, Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer of the Southwest Power Pool, which covers Oklahoma. The panel also consisted of Mr. Alex Herrgott, President & Chief Executive Officer of the Permitting Institute; Mr. Bryce Yonker, Executive Director & Chief Executive Officer of Grid Forward; Mr. N. Levi Esquerra, Senior Vice President for Native American Advancement & Tribal Engagement at the University of Arizona; and Mr. Robert Bryce, an author, journalist, and public speaker.

Lankford continues to rail on the Biden Administration for its attempts to “cancel” traditional energy, especially while in Europe recently, they’ve seen a lack of reliable wind generation and high natural gas prices that have forced factories to face closure or pass steep cost increases on to consumers. A coal shortage and unrealistic emissions targets have caused power cuts in at least 20 Chinese provinces, which has resulted in halting factory production, turning off traffic lights in some communities, and China seeking increased coal supply to alleviate the crisis.

Last February, following extreme winter weather in Oklahoma, Lankford highlighted the struggles that plagued Oklahoma Southwest Power Pool customers when Oklahoma’s wind towers froze and were for several days running more on diesel than wind power—usually, Oklahoma receives 40 percent of our power from wind. Oklahoma solar panels were also challenged by the storms since they were covered in snow for days, when temperatures hovered at -14, or had near-constant cloud cover.


On the need for a diversity of fuel sources

Lankford: Obviously the issue of diversity of fuel sources has come up several times to try to figure out how to we make sure that we have a diversity of fuel sources, so if we have a problem with one, we have an availability in others. So we’ve had a lot of conversation about wind and solar, obviously making those more resilient has been an issue. We can make those more resilient. But they’re always going to be intermittent. There will be long periods of time, especially in the central part of the United States where we’ll have days without a lot of sun, and we’ll have days that we’ll have less wind, as they’re experiencing right now across Europe and the UK, causing some of those issues there. So, let’s talk a little bit about diversity of fuel sources. What do we need? How do we know when we’ve overproduced or are over-reliant on some sources that are more intermittent.

Nickell: …Diversity of resources is very helpful. None of us would invest in a single stock and plan on that stock to be our retirement plan. And I think the same thing can be said of generating resources. The more diversity we have, the more we can count on being able to deal with any number of different events. This winter we were able to count on all of our diverse resources: gas, coal, wind, hydro, nuclear. It all produced…

On whey we had failures of natural gas dispersal during the extreme weather in February

Lankford: There’s been a lot of conversation about the natural gas side of things. When I talk to the natural gas folks, they’ll say they were electricity-power dependent, that once they lost power, and it rolled off for whatever reason for them, the wellheads froze. They weren’t able to produce, and then they weren’t able to send natural gas then to do more electricity generation, which made the problem even worse. And it became this circular event where when they lost power then they lost capacity to be able to send, and it became a bigger issue…

Nickell: …We are really embarking on that learning exercise right now, and one of the things that I think has got to happen, we’ve got to do a better job of, and that is we’ve got to communicate more. The gas industry, the electric industry, has to get together at the table and talk, and we haven’t done a good job of that in the past. And that’s why you are hearing and other people are hearing similar comments and similar explanations for why gas didn’t perform. I know anecdotally, based on some of the things I’ve heard, that there was some evidence that that occurred. It’s certainly not the whole story, and it’s certainly not the primary cause of the gas failure at SPP. Nevertheless, the more we can talk, the more we communicate about how to work together more effectively, the better chance we have of resolving the right issue and answering the right question with the right solutions.

Lankford: What would you say was the primary cause on the gas failure there for SPP?

Nickell: At SPP, what we know is that there was a lack of fuel supply, and we believe based on information that our market monitor has produced is that it was s combination of two things: gas just simply wasn’t available and/or gas prices were too high…

On why energy prices soared in the extreme weather event last year and what caused it

Lankford: …How did it get to that price, the final price that it got to for natural gas, why was that the final price? Because you all were dealing with the different costs for natural gas during that time period, how did it get to that spot?

Nickell: …I have heard that the lack of supply created the demand. I’ve also heard that the willingness of generators and utilities to pay whatever they could afford to pay in order to reliably serve load also contributed, but I can’t tell you to what extent either of those drove that price as high as it did.

On why we’re not seeing more nuclear power use and problems with the long permitting process for nuclear power

Lankford: Mr. Bryce, I do want to be able to drill down on something you had mentioned before about nuclear power, and we’ve got to be able to get that as a power source ongoing. That’s not going right now with small modular or nuclear power. The reason I hear most often is the cost and the investment there, the capital that is required to be able to do that initially, and the second has become the permitting, that no one wants to put $8 billion forward to be able to prepare for a nuclear power plant if it’s going to take 15 years in permitting and the uncertainty of who will be president and what the rules will be when they actually get to that spot. Is that correct, not correct? What do you think is the reason we’re not seeing more nuclear power at this point?

Bryce: Well, Senator, thank you. I think you’ve hit on this exactly in the right way…the length of the licensing process is a gigantic hurdle, and so we also have the recent experience of the nuclear plant in South Carolina being cancelled, the plant in Bogle in Georgia is overtime and over budget. I think that it’s clear as well that those plants, generally speaking, are just too large. We need smaller reactors that are going to be lower cost that we can build at scale and do so quickly…