Move to energy Independence needed for U.S.

Published 5:00 am Monday, June 15, 2009

When gasoline prices are down, most Americans don’t worry toomuch about fuel and where it comes from. But for veteran energyinvestor T. Boone Pickens, the origin of our oil remains foremostin his mind.

Citing national security and other concerns, Pickens iscontinuing his calls for an energy policy in hopes of weaning theUnited States off of imported foreign oil. Last week he brought hismessage to the Southern Growth Policies Board energy conference inBiloxi.

Pickens’ plan calls for development of wind-generated power thatcan provide 20 percent of U.S. electric demand by 2013. He’s alsowanting to see heavy-duty vehicles converted from diesel fuel tonatural gas, although there are relatively few of those in the U.S.now.

Pickens has a bit of a “Field of Dreams” mentality when heapplauds the technology but downplays the availability of theinfrastructure.

“Build the equipment and it will come,” he was quoted assaying.

Nevertheless, Pickens’ calls for more energy independence havemerit and are worthy of consideration. Wind, solar, nuclear andother forms of power generation need to be part of thediscussion.

Pickens seems fine with that.

“I’m for anything American. I’m against foreign oil,” hesaid.

Putting Pickens’ comments in action has potential benefits forcitizens here in Mississippi, and state officials are realizingthat fact.

Gov. Haley Barbour also last week introduced the creation of theMississippi Energy Policy Institute. The institute will pursueenergy policy in relation to long-term economic growth andrenewable power projects.

Mississippi already has Grand Gulf, with its 700 jobs, and 40biomass-related renewable energy projects. Other planned projectsin Kemper County and on the coast should allow further realizationof the state’s power production potential.

Studies indicate that clean energy-related jobs are growing atrates far above the both the national and state job creationaverages.

With the institute in place and louder calls for a move towardU.S. energy independence, Mississippi could be well positioned tocapitalize on the developing trend.