By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal
JACKSON – Gov. Phil Bryant said Mississippi, with its natural resources, is positioned to be a leader in the energy industry,
Bryant unveiled his energy development plan Thursday at the Governor’s Energy Summit at the Jackson Convention Complex.
Former Gov. Haley Barbour started the annual event during his second term in coordination with the non-profit Mississippi Energy Institute.
Bryant outlined a plan that he said would focus on all aspects of energy, from research and development to work force training to an emphasis on conservation.
The day-long event featured a lunch-time speech by former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who touched on the need to move toward energy independence, criticized the Obama administration and told stories about the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York.
Also at lunch, the Mississippi Energy Institute honored the Sundancer race team from the Houston Vocational Center. The Sundancer, a solar-powered car, has won numerous first place awards at the international solar car challenge.
The EcoCar 2 Team from Mississippi State also was honored for winning awards for converting a car to electricity while still maintaining the performance level associated with a traditional gasoline-powered vehicle.
Bryant’s energy plan culminated the day. He said energy “will drive Mississippi’s economic growth in the 21st century.
“The world’s energy demands will continue to grow, and Mississippi is in the position to become a dominant force in the energy industry,” Bryant said. “My energy plan establishes a comprehensive framework that will position Mississippi for new jobs and a future built on reliable, affordable energy.”
He said Mississippi is “an energy crossroads” because of the pipes that transport natural gas in and out of the state. He said the state also is a leader in enhanced oil recovery, thanks to tax breaks offered for the process. He said the process is changing the industry.
Bryant proposed tax breaks and incentives to attract energy research and development to the state – particularly to the state’s universities.
He also said community colleges and universities must emphasize jobs in the energy industry that on average pay twice the current wage for Mississippi households.
The governor, speaking to people working in the energy industry and other elected leaders, said the KIOR plant, which will be based in Columbus, could be “a world changing event” because of its ability to convert biomass, such as pine trees, to gasoline. Plans for the plant were put in during a 2010 special session of the Mississippi Legislature.
The governor also praised the controversial and innovative coal gasification plant being built in Kemper County by Gulfport-based Mississippi Power Co., but he stopped short of endorsing the large rate increase requested by the company. He said he wouldn’t comment on the rate increase rejected earlier by the three-member Public Service Commission because he didn’t know enough about it.
Bryant, who will serve as chair of the Southern States Energy Board, said part of his energy plan would be to protect the environment but ensure that regulations did not hinder development. Many of the speakers were critical of the regulations and policies imposed by the Obama administration.