Summit pushes chemical manufacturing in Miss.

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 5, 2013 at 2:50 pm •  Published: December 5, 2013

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi should seize an opportunity to compete for energy-thirsty economic development, economist David Dismukes suggested Thursday at the Governor's Energy Summit.

A Louisiana State University professor, Dismukes was hired by the Mississippi Energy Institute to look at opportunities that might arise from the U.S. boom in natural gas production. At Thursday's summit at the Jackson Convention Complex, Dismukes presented preliminary results from his study.

He finds that Mississippi should pitch itself as a home for chemical manufacturing companies that might want to get away from areas clogged by tens of billions in construction in the refining and chemical sectors.

"Energy-based industrial development, to date, has been highly concentrated in Louisiana and Texas, largely due to the ability to leverage existing (brownfield) sites and historic industrial linkages," Dismukes wrote. "However, constraints are like to arise in the future. Mississippi will have to vigorously compete for these opportunities — they will not materialize without concerted, uniform effort."

That dovetails with Gov. Phil Bryant's vision for using energy as a driver for economic development, making Mississippi "your energy home." Bryant especially touts the potential for oil drilling in southwest Mississippi.

"This is going to be a huge opportunity for us," Bryant said of drilling in the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale.

The Mississippi Energy Institute, which promotes energy development, hosts the summit once a year. Bryant and former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich were among the speakers boosting oil and gas exploration, utilities and other forms of energy development.

Dismukes said opportunities look brightest in refining methanol and building new gas-fired power plants. There was a boom in natural gas plants in Mississippi when the wholesale power market was deregulated in the 1990s, but many investors went bankrupt after they couldn't win long-term contracts to sell power. Dismukes argues that because Entergy Corp. is joining a multi-state transmission organization, prospects are brighter now.

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