The 35th Annual Energy Generation Conference (EGC) held in Bismarck, N.D., Jan. 28–30, highlighted the importance of North Dakota to national discussions of energy policy.

The opening session focused on the oil and natural gas boom currently taking place in the state. The Bakken shale play is expected to produce over one million barrels of oil per day and one billion cubic feet of natural gas per day during the month of January.

Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., gave a brief videotaped statement. He said, “We [North Dakotans] get to be exporters of all of that product to neighboring states, and other states and provinces around us, and perhaps, perhaps someday soon, we can export all of that—these natural resources—even beyond our borders.” He said he believes energy security means more than just being energy independent as a country or continent, but being at the forefront of the energy boom around the globe.

A videotaped message was also provided by Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D. She cited Great River Energy’s diverse portfolio of generation resources as an example of the “all of the above” energy production and usage policy that the entire country should be striving for. (See the February issue of POWER for a story on how Great River Energy upgraded control room consoles to improve ergonomics.) Heitkamp also mentioned that energy and power issues have been an important part of her first year in office. “North Dakota is front and center in almost every discussion regarding energy and energy policy,” she said.

The event featured a keynote presentation by Chad Hymas. A quadriplegic, Hymas was paralyzed as the result of a farm accident in 2001 at the age of 27. Although the mishap was tragic, his story is inspiring. In addition to being a husband and father of three children, he has become a successful author, speaker, and world record-holding wheel chair athlete.

Many of the conference attendees—estimated to be around 2,500 power industry professionals, including 251 exhibitors—listened to his message about how a split-second decision can change your life. Hymas encouraged listeners to take the “I” out of their vocabularies and insert “you, we, and ours” instead. He wanted workers to always be thinking about other people more than themselves. “This meeting’s not about you…. [it’s about] everybody else that will benefit from your actions from you being here, because you changed something in a matter of seconds,” Hymas said.

Aaron Larson, associate editor (@AaronL_Power, @POWERmagzine)