March 19, 2012
One of my favorite songs is "Flyover States" by Jason Aldean. It tells the story of a conversation between two men on a cross-country flight when all they see out the window is farmland. Noting it all looks the same, the men cannot understand why anyone would want to live "down there in the middle of nowhere." The song’s chorus answers back, explaining they only speak with such disdain because they have never met the hardworking Americans who inhabit those "flyover states," and suggesting that spending time in the heartland would help the men have a better understanding of Midwestern values – the very values that sustain this country.
Is there any chance the song could play out in real life?
President Obama is scheduled to visit what is arguably the capitol of the heartland when he travels to Oklahoma later this week. The President heads to Cushing as part of a two-day trip focused on sharing his energy message, one he feels has not been heard by many Americans.
Hearing the President's message is not the problem.
When the Gulf oil disaster resulted in a blanket drilling moratorium – hurting production and jobs – rather than a common sense approach to increase safety while keeping the work going, the message began to come through. With the rejection of the Keystone XL permit that would have brought thousands of much-needed jobs and helped reduce our dependence on Middle Eastern oil, the message came more into focus. And with the decision to ask Saudi Arabia to increase its oil production rather than work with American producers to utilize our own technology and ingenuity to harvest our own resources, the message was crystal clear.
The problem is not whether Americans have heard Obama's energy message; Americans hear him loud and clear. They are simply rejecting the message.
The President has been doing too much talking and not enough listening, so let's hope the Cushing trip changes that. Pound for pound, no other state is leading in the energy sector like Oklahoma, and Washington could learn a lot from Oklahoma values. Oklahomans understand the vast resources that lie underneath our great nation – the same ones that can provide a foundation for years to come. Oklahomans understand the fundamental values that make this country great. And Oklahomans understand we must allow free-market principles to guide policy because when government chooses winners and losers, we all lose.
Mr. President, some of the world's best leaders, best producers, and best entrepreneurs call Oklahoma home, and this is your chance to seek their help to build an energy policy that makes sense for all Americans. America needs America's energy. America needs Oklahoma's leadership. As the song suggests, maybe spending a little time here will help our friends from Washington see things differently: "On the plains of Oklahoma, with a windshield sunset in your eyes, like a water-color painted sky, you'll think heaven's doors have opened, and you'll understand why God made those flyover states."