Technology Fuels Way Forward for Mississippi

“The way forward.”

Write down this phrase and remember it. Finding ways forward out of our economic and fiscal dilemmas should be dogma for serious leaders.

Southern Company CEO Tom Fanning used the phrase to celebrate the groundbreaking for Mississippi Power Company’s new $2.4 billion “clean coal” power plant in rural Kemper County.

The Southern Company subsidiary says its new Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle facility uses “first in America” innovative technology to turn cheap lignite coal into gas for power generation. In so doing, it “sequesters” 65% of emissions to make it as environmentally “clean” as a natural gas powered facility.

Since coal is to America what oil is to Saudi Arabia, clean coal technology paves the way to continue using coal to fuel power plants. Mississippi Power, like many power companies, depends heavily on coal. But, dirty, coal-fired plants have come under fire from the Environmental Protection Agency and environmentalists.

“We believe, with all the issues facing coal in America, this technology is the ‘way forward’ to preserve the United States’ most plentiful energy resource,” said Fanning.

For Governor Haley Barbour, a key player in the plant becoming a reality, this way forward is part of a broader energy strategy to shift energy production from foreign to American resources.

A side benefit of the IGCC technology is the sequestered carbon dioxide. It can be used to force oil from old and abandoned wells. Barbour has supported expansion of Denbury Resources, Inc., operations that use this technology to reclaim wells in Mississippi.

Just weeks ago, Barbour announced Kior, Inc., a Houston, Texas, company, will spend $500 million to build plants at Columbus, Newton, and Bude that will utilize innovative technology to convert bio-mass to crude oil. The locations are surrounded by large Mississippi forests that will provide most of the fuel for the plants.

A benefit of the high-tech process that converts bio-mass to crude oil is that few gashouse emissions are produced when it is refined into gasoline, said Kior president Fred Cannon.

Earlier, Barbour supported Entergy’s application to build a new, higher-tech nuclear power plant at its existing nuclear facility near Port Gibson.

He sees the marriage between innovative technology and domestic energy resources as a way forward to generate high-paying jobs in Mississippi. He also sees a future where industries won’t care so much about the price of energy, but its availability, so his long-term goal is to make Mississippi “a reliable energy state.”

The more immediate and tangible impact of this way forward, however, will be hundreds of high paying, high technology, energy-related jobs.

“The way forward” – innovative technology utilizing local resources to create jobs in Mississippi. Sounds like a good New Year’s resolution to me.

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