Editor's Note: This is part of a series in partnership with the American Solar Energy Society. Click here for more articles about the National Solar Tour, and look for updates each Tuesday.
Dewey Bartlett, Jr. is a third generation oil man. The 62-year-old Oklahoman has been in the oil and gas exploration business all his life.
But when it comes to the polarizing energy debate, hes breaking new ground. This oil prospector is going solar.
Why would a seasoned fossil fuel expert consider renewables? Going solar was our way of demonstrating that domestically-produced alternative energy is important and practical, he said. We owe our livelihood to oil and gas, but these are finite resources. The need for domestic alternatives, particularly in todays volatile international climate, is clear. A
merica currently uses 25% of the worlds oil supply, but this country holds only 3% of the worlds oil reserves. Global demand for oil is escalating, as is the volatility of many of the foreign sources from which Americans obtain their oil.
Dewey contends there is no silver bullet solution to this dilemma. He says the reliable, relatively affordable domestic resources required to sate Americas voracious energy appetite come in a variety of flavors.
With that in mind, the oilman introduced 19 solar photovoltaic panels to the rooftop of the 9,000 square-foot Tulsa office building he shares with attorney Ron Barnes this past April. The straight-talkin businessman says the solar system has shaved hundreds of dollars (about 30%) from his companys monthly energy bill, and, in a unique arrangement with the local power company, the solar installation has made him the first commercial customer in Tulsa to actually tie into the power grid on a two-way basis. This allows him to send any surplus power back to the power company and get paid for it in the form of credits to his monthly utility bill.
Deweys office building will be open to visitors during the National Solar Tour, the largest grassroots solar event in the history of the U.S. Produced by the American Solar Energy Society, the event features opportunities to tour solar homes and businesses in thousands of communities across the U.S. Tours are slated throughout the month of October and can be found at www.nationalsolartour.org.
Bartlett anticipates that his firm, Keener Oil & Gas Company, will realize federal tax benefits totaling a whopping $17,000 of the $40,000 solar improvement he made to his building, allowing him to recoup 100% of his business investment over the course of the next five or six years.
With a keener understanding of ROSI (return on solar investment), Dewey is lassoing the suns energy at work and at home. Hes just bought a house with his new wife, Victoria, and the two plan on introducing solar thermal systems to heat their pool and household water, which account for 30 to 40 percent of a typical households monthly energy bill.
And hes all for the business and homeowners tax incentives currently available to stimulate solar markets. Todays tax credits for renewable power generation are set to expire at the end of this year unless Congress can agree upon a new energy policy. Im hoping our legislators can come to some middle ground so these incentives are renewed, said Dewey. Its a smart thing to do. And so much more productive than mandates, he added. The U.S. House of Representatives could begin hearing arguments on the new energy bill as early as this week.
Oil, however, runs deep in the roots of the Bartlett family tree. His grandfather got into the business at the turn of the last century circa 1900 and moved the company from Pennsylvania to the oil-rich plains of Oklahoma in 1910. His father, Dewey Follett Bartlett, was a geologist who perpetuated the family legacy while serving as the second Republican governor in the history of the state of Oklahoma. From there, he went to Washington, D.C. to serve the state as a U.S. senator. His background in geology, his experience in the realm of fossil fuels and his collaborative approach in the senate earned him status as a trusted energy subject matter expert during the countrys first Middle Eastern oil crisis. That was over a quarter of a century ago: back in 1973, when OPEC was formed and Americans were dealing with their fist oil embargo.
As a senator, my father served on the Energy Committee, recalls Bartlett. He and a Democratic Senator from Georgia, Sam Nunn, were great friends and moderate in their views. Given the connection energy had with the Middle East, the men also served on the Foreign Relations Committee. They were true statesmen, able to disagree in an agreeable way and find ways to do whats best for the common good. We were fortunate to have their expertise and their approach to middle ground politics during that critical time, Bartlett observed.
Back then, my father understood the dangers of relying on foreign oil in such historically volatile regions, he recalled. He knew it was in our strategic best interest to look at more domestic sources, certainly at independent oil and gas. Thats what got me thinking about domestic alternatives, he continued. Even then, my father knew that if we didnt do something to strengthen our independent industry, we would be fighting wars.
Deweys business, Keener Oil and Gas Company, is a self-described mom-and-pop organization. The company develops drilling prospects to find oil that is sold to refineries to produce myriad products, from gasoline and diesel fuel to asphalt, plastics, and fertilizer. If he finds gas, its sold to a pipeline that provides natural gas for heating. Were not all Exxon, he noted. Id liken my operation more to that of a family farm. I have eight employees. No jet, no Cadillac with steer horns, he laughs.
Deweys middle ground mantra is that we need renewables today, yet we cannot just flip a switch and sustain our current quality of life without an integrated approach, particularly given the wide array of applications for petroleum and Americas behemoth consumption habits.
When all is said and done, were in the energy business, he said. If anyone understands the preciousness of energy as it relates to Americans quality of life, its those of us trying to find it.
Being able to control ones energy destiny by having access to domestic resources, whether theyre renewables, alternative technologies or fossil fuels is just sensible, Dewey said. At the end of the day, if this country doesnt act responsibly to create access to reasonably priced energy, were in bad trouble.
Acting responsibly to create access to renewable and reasonably priced energy. Now thats a prospect worth pursuing.
Go to www.nationalsolartour.org for more.
The Daily Green's Community News section is a forum for our audience to get the word out about issues that matter to them, enlist support, get help and advice, celebrate successes or share humor. The best submissions are personal (why I started this venture) short and to the point (400 words or so) and written in a style that speaks directly to the audience as peers (not like an ad or press release). E-mail submissions to email@example.com and include "community news" in the subject line. Photos are also welcome, provided the submitter has rights to publish the image. Be sure to include credit and caption information.
Enter your city or zip code to get your local temperature and air quality and find local green food and recycling resources near you.