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Wicker Says Mississippi Should Be ‘All-of-the-Above’ Energy Leader

Energy Development Drives Economic Growth, Creates Jobs

Friday, October 12, 2012

At an energy summit earlier this month, Gov. Phil Bryant unveiled a plan to make Mississippi a national leader in energy production.  Our state has plentiful energy resources, and developing them responsibly can help boost the economy and create well-paying jobs.  A productive energy sector is a big win for Mississippians.

As high gas prices continue to set records, we need leadership at the local, state, and national levels that recognizes the importance of energy independence and the truly “all-of-the-above” approach it will take to get there.  For the past four years, the policies of the Obama Administration have put up roadblocks and picked industry winners and losers instead of maximizing our vast energy-producing capabilities here at home.

Utilizing Our Abundant Resources

Recently, I had an opportunity to tour the construction site of Mississippi Power Company’s new energy plant in Kemper County.  The facility is designed to utilize our state’s abundance of lignite and has the potential to provide affordable energy for decades.

The Kemper County project demonstrates how energy and economic development go hand in hand.  Mississippi Power estimates that the facility will create as many as 3,000 direct and indirect jobs during construction and 300 permanent positions once completed.  More than 250 Mississippi companies have been involved in the plant’s construction.

Other advancements in efficient energy sources are being made across the state.  Solar and biomass companies have helped diversify Mississippi’s energy portfolio and enhance its competitive advantage with cutting-edge technology.

In my native county of Pontotoc, a renewable-energy project is converting waste methane to electricity at the Three Rivers Solid Waste Landfill.  The groundbreaking initiative is the product of innovative local partnerships and shows how small steps can make a real difference.

Expanding Offshore Drilling

Another avenue for proven economic growth is the expansion of offshore oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.  Last year, our state was named the best place in the world for oil and gas investment.

President Obama’s moratorium on deepwater drilling in 2010 has cost thousands of Gulf jobs and billions in economic activity.  Studies have shown that restoring production to levels prior to the BP oil spill would make a significant economic impact.

Instead, the Obama Administration continues to prevent private industry from actually drilling and producing oil.  Rather than addressing the nation’s energy needs, the President’s latest five-year offshore drilling plan excludes 85 percent of offshore areas.

Strengthening Our Energy Future

President Obama has declared the month of October as “National Energy Action Month,” but his own actions fail to follow through on promises of energy security.  The Administration’s excessive regulation and rejection of the job-creating Keystone XL pipeline reveal a misguided agenda.  The President’s policies lack a serious commitment to lowering energy costs for American families and businesses.  Unfortunately, without practical energy solutions, Americans remain vulnerable to volatile prices.

Our state is poised to be an “all-of-the-above” energy leader, and strategies to cultivate development across the energy sector are good for economic growth and getting Mississippians back to work.  Mississippi can play an important role in strengthening America’s energy future.

October 2012 Weekly Columns