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October 9th, 2013

A miracle has occurred in the state of Mississippi

Harry C Alford

These are very exciting times for the fuel industry in America. We are at the point of being totally oil independent. We are finding new reserves in various parts of our great nation. Natural gas is now abundant thanks to a new process known as Fracturing or Fracking. In fact, we were once importers of natural gas but now, thanks to Fracking, we are exporting it for attractive profits. No longer do we have to rely on nations that don’t particularly like us for our energy needs. God blesses the child who has his own and we are certainly blessed.

The US Department of Energy (George W. Bush Administration) proposed putting a prototype coal energy plant in Florida. Environmentalists persuaded the voters that Florida didn’t need another coal plant even if it were a clean prototype for the nation. My friend, former Governor of Mississippi, Haley Barbour, pounced on the opportunity. So, $270 million dollars were transferred from Florida to Mississippi. Governor Barbour convinced his constituents that this project will put Mississippi on the road to prominence as it will be an innovator in the energy industry. Florida’s lost will indeed become Mississippi’s gain.

The Dept. of Energy, the Southern Company and Construction Management Firm KBR (Kellogg, Brown and Root) got together at the Power Systems Development Facility in Wilsonville, Alabama and developed a process known as Transport Integrated Gasification (TRIG). The mission was to take lignite coal and put it to use. There are three types of coal – peat, lignite and bituminous. The majority of coal is lignite but formerly there was no use for it. The United States has the largest coal reserves in the world. Through TRIG technology lignite is turned into a clean gas while reducing emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, carbon dioxide and mercury. Carbon Dioxide emissions will be reduced by 65% - making CO2 emissions equivalent to a similarly sized natural gas combined cycle power plant (full operation).

TRIG is a form of Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS). It can capture the CO2 released in the combustion process, transport it to a suitable storage location and finally store it (usually underground) where it cannot enter into the atmosphere and thus contribute to climate change. It can then be sold to oil exploration companies for use in oil recovery. A perfect solution!

Governor Barbour chose Kemper County, Mississippi (30 miles north of Meridian) as the venue for this new power plant. He broke ground on June 3, 2010. The power plant, Kemper Project, will be operational by mid-2014. During its lifetime it will use 150 million tons of lignite coal. The state has at least five billion tons in reserve. This will be the beginning of a safe, clean and effective way to ensure our energy needs and be good managers of our environment. The balance of natural gas, oil and clean coal is a winning hand for the American economy and its freedom loving populace. This rivals the works of John D. Rockefeller, Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. Thank God! America has become fuel independent.

The typical environmentalist groups have been trying various tactics to stop this innovative miracle. Nothing is working for them as this really answers their proclaimed needs for the world - environmentally safe production of energy. Plus that, it is affordable. While the costs to build baseload power plants (running 24/7) are higher, the significantly lower cost of the plant’s lignite fuel source compared to other generation types will benefit customers for decades. Sales of byproducts such as carbon dioxide captured in the gasification process will generate approximately $50 million annually and the byproducts will be used to get to unreachable oil reserves.

The Kemper Project is owned by Mississippi Power which is a subsidiary to the Southern Company. Mississippi Power has committed $990 million in Kemper – related costs. If there is a cost overrun Southern Company shareholders, not Mississippi Power customers, will pay every penny of cost above the limit agreed to by the Mississippi Public Service Commission and the Mississippi Legislature.

It is also about JOBS, JOBS, and JOBS! More than 450 Mississippi companies have a significant role in the construction of the project. Nearly 12,000 direct and indirect jobs are being created during the construction of the facility. Peak construction employment alone will be nearly 6,000. More than 1,000 direct and indirect permanent positions will be in place once the facility opens. During construction, the project is generating nearly $75 million in state and local taxes. Once operational, the project will create $30 million annually in state and local taxes over the life of the plant.

Harry C. Alford is the co-founder, President and CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce.

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