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Archive for December, 2009

If MPC wants to build coal plant, it should do so with private financing

December 30th, 2009 Comments off

In the grand scheme of things, it’s hard to be critical of a company that is trying to grow, create more jobs and make America more energy independent.
Unfortunately, Mississippi Power Company (MPC) doesn’t have all of its ducks in a row in regard to building a $2.4-billion lignite coal plant in Kemper County at the ratepayers expense.
Mississippi Power would like for its ratepayers to trust them when it says there is a need for a new plant, and that the reason it is needed is because natural gas is too volatile of a commodity to be trusted as a primary source of energy spanning the next 25 years.
A couple of weeks ago, Mississippi Power was given the opportunity to respond to comments from experts saying that because of recent discoveries of natural gas, an increase in production has lowered the commodity’s price, therefore contradicting MPC’s “need” to build a new lignite coal power plant.
MPC’s CEO Anthony Topazi did not respond to interview requests at the time.
However, we did provide testimony Topazi made before the Mississippi Public Service Commission, where he said “gas is simply unpredictable.”
“Any long-term energy strategy,” he said, “that is relying on some optimistic forecast for natural gas is dangerous and exposes our customers to enormous cost risks going forward.”
After the story ran, MPC asked for an editorial board meeting with us to explain in detail the issues it has with natural gas pricing.
In that meeting, Mississippi Power reiterated its position it had made to the Public Service Commission that natural gas is too volatile. Using their experts’ range of natural gas forecasts, they had determined that energy from lignite coal would be cheaper for customers than energy from natural gas over the life of the plant.
“Great,” we said. “Put us in touch with those experts, so we can put their comments on the record.”
They wouldn’t do that, citing competitive reasons.
They told us to contact an expert twho had testified before the Public Service Commission. We did.
He declined to be interviewed.
So, we asked to see the MPC forecasts it was providing to the Public Service Commission.
They wouldn’t do that.
What we were left with for another story is a lot of experts who have continually said that while natural gas has been volatile in the past, it will not be in the foreseeable future.
In fact, just a week after Mississippi Power submitted its findings to the PSC, but made them unavailable to the public, the federal Energy Information Agency released its latest findings.
The results from the EIA shows gas prices rising at a consistent rate over the next 25 years. However, at the end of 2035, prices will only be two cents more than they were two years ago.
That is hardly volatile.
Mississippi sits on a gigantic pile of lignite coal.
Mississippi Power believes it has new cutting-edge “clean coal” technology that can put Mississippi on the map. MPC believes it can make money doing that.
Great.
But don’t make the case for the plant with claims that cannot be backed up in a public forum, particularly when the public is going to be on the hook for billions of dollars.
As stated before, we would love to see Mississippi Power Company grow, create more jobs and make America more energy independent.
It just seems that the ratepayers of Southeast Mississippi ought not be on the hook for the bill, if it doesn’t work out.
Mississippi Power Company should get private financing for its project. The model of putting everyday Mississippians on the hook for the financing this project is not a good one, particularly since the plant is not expected to provide savings for customers until 2024.

Avatar takes over as The Blind Side drops to No. 3 at the box office

December 22nd, 2009 Comments off

The new smash hit Avatar is No. 1 at the box office this week.

Amazingly enough, however, two of the top three and three of the top six movies still have strong Mississippi connections.

At No. 2 is The Princess and the Frog. One of the main characters uses the voice of a Jackson girl, Elizabeth Dampier. This isn’t the first professional work for the St. Richard Catholic School student. However, this is her biggest work to this point. We can only hope this is the tip of the iceberg for her.

The Princess and the Frog made more than $12 million last week.

At No. 3 and still chugging along is The Blind Side. The story of former Ole Miss offensive lineman and current Baltimore Raven left tackle Michael Oher has become an international sensation. It is truly inspirational.

It made more than $10 million last week.

At No. 6 is Invictus with Mississippi’s Morgan Freeman, who plays South African president Nelson Mandela.

Freeman, already with an Academy Award to his credit, is getting that Oscar buzz again for this movie with Matt Damon that is labeled as one of the most inspirational films of the decade.

Invictus made more than $4 million last week.

But Avatar, with more than $77 million in box office sales, is the new heavyweight champ.

Avatar, according to reviews, takes us to a spectacular world beyond imagination, where the hero fights to save the alien world he has learned to call home. Sounds like a great action thilller.

Regardless of your choice, if you want to see a movie during the holidays, it appears there will be a good one to check out.

The rest of the top 10 includes:

No. 4: Did You Hear About The Morgans ($6.6 million);

No. 5: The Twilight Saga: New Moon ($4.4 million) ;

No. 6: Invictus ($4.2 million);

No. 7: Disney’s A Christmas Carol ($3.4 million);

No. 8: Up In The Air ($3.2 million);

No. 9: Brothers ($2.8 million);

No. 10: Old Dogs ($2.3 million).

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

Is the King Edward Jackson’s Alluvian game-changer?

December 18th, 2009 Comments off

To take a look back at downtown Greenwood 10 to 15 years ago, you would have found a place most Mississippians wouldn’t have traveled to. There were empty store fronts, homeless wandering the streets and a general sense of hopelessness abounded.

Viking helped change all of that by building the Alluvian Hotel. To go along with that was the Viking cooking school and a host of other businesses that attached themselves to a swanky boutique hotel in the middle of the Mississippi Delta.

Today, Greenwood is a destination location for folks across the nation. There are still negative issues in downtown Greenwood, but it seems most people are willing to overlook the negatives based on the positives that have been achieved and what can still be achieved.

Having said all of that, I got a sense of that type of energy last night when my wife and I visited the new King Edward Hotel in downtown Jackson. As most of you know, downtown Jackson has had its own perception problems. Many thought the issues, like Greenwood (empty store fronts, homeless wandering the streets and a general sense of hopelessness), could never be solved.

However, after dinner at the Mayflower, we walked a block down the street to have a drink at the King Edward, which we found packed. There was the sense that this cold, rainy evening in Jackson was a game-changer. There was hope. There was talk of possibilities. There was talk of the realty they were standing in that no one thought possible just a few years ago.

On the ride home, my wife and I talked about the similarities with the Alluvian and Greenwood. Yes, the Alluvian is a different type hotel and yes Greenwood is much different than Jackson. But so much of the situation is the same.

And if the King Edward helps bring as much success to downtown Jackson as the Alluvian did for downtown Greenwood, life could be much different in the Capital City in a short amount of time.

Sure, there are still negative issues in downtown Jackson, but it seems most people are willing to overlook the negatives based on the positives that have been achieved and what can still be achieved.

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Mayor must take on responsibility of CEO

December 4th, 2009 Comments off

Before anyone leaps to their keyboard to write that they have read this column before, let me assure you this will be the second column I have written about moderating a mayoral debate in Indianola.
In the Democratic primaries, longtime Indianola businessman Steve Rosenthal routed his opponents with 62 percent of the vote, leaving him to battle upstart independent Mario Strong in the general election.
As I wrote previously, the problems in Indianola are not unusual. Unemployment is high. Crime is up. The tax base is short. Public schools are failing and the town seems to be at a crossroads.
Sound familiar?
That could be Natchez or West Point or Booneville or Meridian or Greenville or Corinth or Pascagoula.
The question is what can a new mayor do about it?
Well, a lot and not so much.
I know this will come as a surprise to a lot of folks, but many Americans distrust the government.
So, while Rosenthal has been running a campaign as the change agent, he will immediately be the guy running the show and he will be distrusted.
That is why it is so important to be transparent as a government official.
Tell the truth. Be up front. Handle public money in a responsible manner.
From that standpoint, Rosenthal, who is expected to win, can make a lot of difference in a short amount of time.
But what about jobs?
In this economy, creating new jobs is going to be a struggle.
Scott Ross in West Point ran a campaign promising more and better jobs.
Five years later, Clay County has one of the highest unemployment rates in all of Mississippi.
Indianola, like most small towns in Mississippi, has to make due with what it already has.
The B.B. King Museum is at the heart of that. Rosenthal must help create a culture that welcomes visitors to Indianola and Sunflower County.
Europeans love the blues, and with the U.S. dollar trading lower and lower against the Euro, now is the time to bring more and more tourists to town.
Using a national negative can be a positive.
Already, Europeans love to come to Mississippi to visit the historical blues sites of the Magnolia State.
In fact, it was just a couple of weeks ago that Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin made an appearance at the unveiling of a blues marker in Tutwiler.
Marketing the blues is not the end all be all, but in small towns like Indianola, it has to be taken advantage of.
The new mayor of Indianola has a challenge ahead of him. As the CEO of the city, Rosenthal or Strong have to be prepared to be transparant, progressive and determined.
Here’s hoping the new mayor of Indianola can be a model for what other small town Mississippi mayors should be.

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