Energy Initiative in Oklahoma

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President Bush called for America to free itself from the dependence of foreign oil in his State of the Union address.

Now people here at home are taking note. Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry followed the President's lead with a $40 million energy initiative announcement involving a southern Oklahoma foundation.

The Noble Foundation has been continuously conducting research to convert switchgrass into ethanol. The state energy secretary has been following their progress, and he recently called Noble president Michael Cawley to ask him to jump on board with the governor's plan.

If the legislature approves the Noble Foundation will team up with the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University to create the Oklahoma Bioenergy Center.

About 50 to 60 researchers and graduate students will build upon the foundation's success in bio-fuel research and look into ways to develop feedstock, collection, transportation, conversion technology, and distribution.

In order to be successful they must convince local ranchers to grow switchgrass or other energy crops. Part of the state's $40 million investment will go to educating producers.

No refineries in the U.S. convert cellulose crops like switchgrass into ethanol yet. But, part of the money would be used to support refining research and development.

If officials can convince biorefineries to build in southern Oklahoma, it would boost the economy and produce hundreds of jobs.