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Copenhagen should look to Mississippi

Recently, we heard a lot of discussion and debate from Copenhagen regarding mandatory reductions of CO2 emissions as a global climate change policy.

Climate has always changed. During the past 100 years, the earth’s temperature has risen 1.3 degrees Fahrenheit while global temperature has decreased during the past 12 years. We can debate whether man is causing global warming or whether man can do anything about it. But the solution to a stronger and healthier Mississippi is not deindustrializing, exporting jobs and transferring wealth through penalties that provide questionable environmental improvement.

Copenhagen could use some Mississippi common sense. Mississippi doesn’t need foreign mandates or international treaties to enact smart energy policy or to protect our environment.  We are moving toward a more energy secure future without mandates. Regardless of one’s position on the climate change debate, everyone wants a clean environment, and we can do that and create an energy secure future. We’re doing it today in Mississippi.

Mississippi Power Company’s proposed $2.2-billion lignite “clean coal” plant in Kemper County will convert coal into clean burning natural gas, capturing 65 percent of carbon emissions to be used to recover oil from abandoned Mississippi fields.  Entergy Corporation’s $500-million upgrade at the Grand Gulf Nuclear Station, the largest expansion of a nuclear plant in U.S. history, will bring jobs and make Grand Gulf the largest single-unit nuclear power plant in the country, generating reliable, affordable electricity with no harmful emissions.  Gulf LNG’s $1.1-billion liquefied natural gas terminal in Pascagoula will service the Southeast and, through Mississippi’s pipeline network, the Northeast – a big boost to our economy.  And Entergy Mississippi is spending $500 million on its transmission system enhancing reliability and efficiency.

In addition to the initiatives of Mississippi’s private sector, our universities are also driving smart energy policy.  Jackson State University’s new Power Systems Laboratory provides an energy systems track for future engineers.  Mississippi State University’s research into biomass and biofuels will create new sources of renewable energy.  The University of Mississippi is on the frontline of energy management and efficiency with the installation of smart meters on the Oxford campus.  Additionally, the Mississippi Technology Alliance’s Strategic Biomass Initiative is paving the way for renewable energy that works.

Nissan and Toyota, two global automotive leaders with a presence in Mississippi, will soon roll out plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, paving the way for the clean and highly efficient cars and trucks of the future. 

Mississippi demonstrates that abundant energy and a cleaner environment are not mutually exclusive, even without burdensome regulations from Washington, D.C., Copenhagen or the United Nations. We can curb pollutants without harming our economy.

A little more than a decade ago there was a 1-to-1 ratio in economic growth and increase in the demand for electricity.  Today, thanks to energy conservation and efficiencies, a 1 percent growth in Mississippi’s economy requires a .4 increase in electricity.  But, growth still requires more electricity.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, Mississippi’s demand for electricity is growing at a rate of 2.6 percent annually, which means Mississippi will require 43 percent more electricity in 2030.  The commercial and industrial sectors where most Mississippians work consume 61 percent of electricity in Mississippi.  In order to meet increasing demand and power job growth, we must have abundant, affordable, clean, electricity.  

If we attempt to replace traditional base load electricity generation with expensive renewable sources that are unworkable in Mississippi, electricity bills will skyrocket, employment will plummet and our economy will suffer. Instead, Mississippi should build on our competitive advantages — a skilled workforce, abundant natural resources and an advanced and robust energy infrastructure utilizing a mix of coal, nuclear, natural gas, hydro-electric, biomass and smart grid technologies.  We can and should make new energy technologies commercially competitive, increase energy efficiency and decrease harmful emissions without removing traditional energy sources or causing undue burden on the economy.

But if we choose Copenhagen, we choose to turn off our current energy resources and transfer trillions of dollars in wealth. We will see the cost of electricity soar, jobs exported overseas, higher gasoline prices and less money for education – all for an uncertain environmental impact.

But, we can improve our environment and avoid this unfortunate transfer of wealth overseas. Here in Mississippi our choice is already evident through advanced coal technologies, the expansion of safe, reliable, emissions-free nuclear energy, biomass energy, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and smart grid technologies. 

Mississippi is proving that sound, pragmatic energy policy balances rising energy demand, a cleaner environment and fuels economic growth driving private capital investment for the careers of the future. 

Enacting sound energy policy is not only good for Mississippi, it will work in Washington, D.C., and Copenhagen as well to create a brighter and cleaner tomorrow.

 

Glenn McCullough Jr. is the former chairman of the Tennessee Valley Authority and also served as the mayor of Tupelo.  He is chairman of Advance Mississippi, a coalition that advocates for superior energy policies that will foster economic growth.  For more information, visit www.advancemississippi.com.

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