OUR OPINION: Natural gas factors put state on top

By NEMS Daily Journal

The 2011 calculation by the Fraser Institute that Mississippi presents the best opportunity for oil and gas investment in the world is sustained indirectly by an analytical article in “State Legislatures” magazine describing the economic assets of a “nation .. .awash” in natural gas and extolling its diversity.
The Fraser Institute, a think tank, polled more than 500 energy-sector executives in 2011 to rate the investment climate for natural gas and crude oil ventures worldwide. Mississippi’s combination of significant reserves, natural storage infrastructure, major infrastructure construction in process or in advanced stages of planning, and favorable tax rates landed our state at the top.
The Fraser Institute is an independent Canadian public policy research and educational organization with offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal and ties to a global network of 75 think tanks. Its mission is to measure, study and communicate the impact of competitive markets and government intervention on the welfare of individuals. (Visit www.fraseramerica.org)
The top 10 most attractive jurisdictions in the 2011 survey were: Mississippi, Ohio, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, West Virginia, Netherlands-North Sea, Alabama, Hungary and North Dakota.
Chevron is investing about $2 billion at its Pascagoula refinery. Two terminals for off-loading or exporting liquefied natural gas are being built near Pascagoula, and Mississippi’s natural salt domes can store vast amounts of natural gas until market demand requires it.
In addition, major energy pipelines use Mississippi as a distribution thoroughfare.
Some environmental voices have been raised in opposition to the rating and the potential for investment, but problems can be resolved when good minds work together.
The economic implications, especially for natural gas, are statewide. Monroe, Oktibbeha and Lowndes counties have significant numbers of producing wells; Lee, Pontotoc, Chickasaw, and Itawamba have lesser numbers. However, the largest numbers of wells are concentrated in southern counties.
In the long term, the investment Mississippi attracts using natural gas, moving it, storing it, and processing it can make our state more prosperous. Proven gas reserves and the probability of extraction have increased in the past decade and natural gas prices have dropped, making its use more likely in cleanly generating electricity.
Holding the top rank means nothing unless Mississippi moves intentionally to capitalize on it.
It is significant that J. Brent Christensen, the new chief economic development officer for Mississippi, said making gains in the energy sector would be one of his chief goals.
Oil and natural gas employed 83,820 Mississippians in 2007, producing $3.6 billion in wages. Seizing the new potential of a No. 1 ranking can grow those numbers.