July 21, 2008

A Corporation Commission Primary – Johnson

By Rick Hoover, Stillwater NewsPress, Okla.

Jul. 21--Rob Johnson doesn't see Oklahoma moving away from carbon-based energy anytime soon.

But, he says, the state needs to start preparing to make that move.

Johnson, a Republican who represented Kingfisher on the state House of Representatives the past four years, is running for Oklahoma Corporation Commission. He is opposed by Dana Murphy in the July 29 primary. The winner will face Jim Roth in the Nov. 4 general election.

Johnson admits the corporation commission cannot make energy producers use any source, but he said he would work with the companies to increase the use of alternative fuels for electricity production.

"I think we need to have a long-term energy plan and make sure we're diversified," Johnson said. "We're going to need an increase in electric capacity in the next 10 years, the electric companies have already said that. That's why we have to take a look at everything -- coal, solar, wind and even nuclear."

Johnson said he is also open to more natural gas and coal-fired plants and that he has not seen a carbon tax or carbon cap proposal that he would support.

"Congress's approach to the carbon tax concerns me," he said. "It's going to have a bad affect on energy-producing states."

On the other hand, Johnson said alternative fuels are the future -- eventually.

"If you take into account the cost of natural gas and (coal), the other forms are becoming more economical and that's why I really want to push nuclear," he said. "If you can lessen some of the restrictions on nuclear ... it's not near as outrageous as it was comparably when the price of natural gas was a lot lower. Nuclear plants are the cleanest, most efficient form of energy you can get."

Johnson has a bachelor's of science degree from Oklahoma State University and a law degree from the University of Oklahoma. He's served as legislative assistant to former U.S. Rep. Wes Watkins and as legislative director to U.S. Rep. Tom Cole. In 2007, Johnson was House majority whip and named legislator of the year by the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association.

Johnson, according to his campaign material, has owned a law practice, worked in the oil and gas industry and for his family's business, Johnson's of Kingfisher.

He and his wife, Michelle, have two children, Kensington and McKellyn.

Johnson said he sees a bright future for Oklahoma producing energy, particularly carbon-based and wind power -- so much that it could lead the country in energy exporting.

But it won't do any good if the state doesn't have the means of delivering that power.

"We have to put the infrastructure in place and we have to expand our grid and make sure we have the capacity to deal with it," he said.

If elected, Johnson said he would develop a long-term energy plan by bringing together all the stakeholders, and then working with the state secretary of energy and the Legislature to see that good policy is enacted.

"We need to assess where we are as a state, what are needs are going to be and what our resources are," Johnson said. "I want to look ahead and see what the problem's going to be and prevent it from happening and I think the corporation commission can be very proactive and get engaged."

Johnson said he is realistic on two issues: the state cannot afford to reduce generating power while it transitions to alternative fuels because demand for power is too great, and in the end, the commission has little real power when dealing with energy providers.

"You can't mandate, but you can encourage," he said. "Let's do what we can now to make sure long term we have everything we need."

For information, visit www.voterobjohnson.com.


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Copyright (c) 2008, Stillwater NewsPress, Okla.

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