by Mandy Gunesakara – Special to Y’all Politics
As Mississippians fire up their gas and propane grills this Fourth of July to celebrate America’s freedom, it’s also a good time to reflect on the broader successes of American energy. It’s not only enabled reliable access to modern-day conveniences, but some of the most recent technological breakthroughs have set Mississippi on a path towards exponential growth.
The energy industry employs over 22,000 hardworking Mississippians that extract, refine and deliver the resources that fuel our cars and barbeques, keep our manufacturers operating, and the lights on in our homes and businesses. Energy consumers in Mississippi also enjoy electricity rates well below the national average. This is good for personal pocketbooks and for manufacturers who have a competitive advantage with low-cost energy, which is increasingly important in today’s global markets.
Energy industry jobs are also some of the highest paid. In Mississippi they pay an average 89.3% more than the average private sector wage. As Governor Bryant’s 2017 report on energy notes energy jobs in Mississippi are a wealth multiplier, meaning they create additional jobs and opportunity in other sectors.
The Mississippi Development Authority, the state agency responsible for attracting new businesses and employment opportunities, has done a good job highlighting Mississippi’s energy advantage to investors. A recent culmination of these efforts is the planned Enviva plant in Lucedale, Mississippi. Once complete, Enviva will have a state-of-the-art wood pellet facility that will turn responsibly harvested Mississippi timber into pellets used primarily by Europeans to meet their own renewable energy goals.
The best news has yet to come for Mississippi’s energy industry according to a survey that ranks the potential for future oil and gas investments around the globe. The Fraser Institute’s latest survey ranks Mississippi fourth in the world for future oil and gas investment in areas with small reserves. New shale energy development opportunities are also estimated to bring close to 9,000 additional jobs and $0.9 billion in economic growth by 2020.
Mississippi’s propensity for growth fits well with President Trump’s national energy and environmental goals. Referred to as the “energy dominance agenda,” the President is committed to expanding the development of abundant U.S. energy resources to fuel our booming domestic economy and provide a reliable source of energy to our allies around the world.
Because American energy is developed consistent with the most effective environmental standards, this pro-growth agenda is also pro-environment.
Today’s air is 73 percent cleaner than it was in 1970. Over 92 percent of our nation’s water systems meet all health-based standards whereas a few decades ago, only 40 percent of water met some of the most basic standards.
When it comes to greenhouse gases, we also lead the world in overall emission reductions. As we export our energy through the president’s energy dominance agenda, we are also exporting the environmental progress and affiliated technologies that go hand-in-hand.
As political rhetoric heats up leading into a presidential election year, many Democrat contenders and their politically aligned environmental organizations are trying to turn these energy successes into some version of environmental mayhem.
The most extreme we have seen from a New York Freshman Representative who has proclaimed the world will be ending in 12 years and is hoping to scare enough people into accepting her anti-energy and anti-growth proposals like the Green New Deal. Such hyperbolic statements are not only disingenuous, but also fail to recognize that our energy development and growth has occurred alongside major environmental progress.
The U.S. energy industry is extremely clean, modern and efficient. Its role in Mississippi has led to a series of positive outcomes, including jobs, local investment and a low cost of living.
President Trump understands this and is looking to replicate these positive outcomes across the country.
Under his energy dominance agenda, the U.S. is projected to become a net energy exporter by 2020 and continue through 2050. Mississippi is well-positioned to be a continued part of this good news story that balances growth alongside environmental protection to the benefit of the local economy, its citizens and the health of our planet.
Mandy Gunasekara is from Decatur, MS, and the founder of the Energy 45 Fund. She previously served as a senior official in President Trump’s EPA and is a regular commentator on Fox News and Fox Business.