The road to more security and energy independence is paved with investments – in alternative fuels, more efficient engine technologies and in our energy-producing infrastructure of domestic drilling and refining. This week we saw more evidence that Mississippi is leading the way in making these good, forward-thinking investments.

I’ve related in past columns how our state is out front in alternative energy and fuel-efficiency research. The first ethanol plant in the southeast is coming to Vicksburg. Several biodiesel facilities are located throughout Mississippi. Plans are under way to expand the Port Gibson nuclear power plant. And Mississippi soon will be home to lignite plants which produce energy from the coal-like substance found in our local soil.

Just recently, a team from Mississippi State University won a national competition to design an exciting new fuel-efficient vehicle that’s practical and can be manufactured at a low cost.

But make no mistake, weaning America off foreign oil in the near-term is going to take investment in oil itself and in making traditional oil-burning technologies more efficient. We must produce more domestic oil and gas if America is to better insulate ourselves from the Islamic terrorist elements in the oil-rich Middle East.

With that goal, Chevron announced a $500 million expansion of its Mississippi refinery. Chevron is one of the nation’s largest refineries, and this investment will enable it daily to produce up to six million gallons of fuel.

Chevron’s expansion adds needed jobs as our Hurricane Katrina recovery continues. When work begins early next year, about 700 construction positions are expected to be created. From a long term perspective, this investment in America’s refinery infrastructure is an example of what ought to be done at every refinery around America.

At Chevron, some 30-year-old equipment will be replaced, not only to enable the refinery to produce more fuel, but make the refinery itself more energy-efficient.

As Governor Haley Barbour noted, Chevron’s investment in Mississippi reflects this company’s confidence in our state’s future and in the Gulf Coast’s rebuilding plan following Hurricane Katrina.

Chevron knows Mississippi’s leaders are willing to work with them, not against them. They know Mississippians want to produce more – not less – energy. And the company appreciates the dedicated work force they’re drawing from our region.

You also may have heard that another world-famous company announced a new investment in Mississippi last week. Officials from Rolls-Royce Aerospace were on hand in Hancock County to open this British company’s first jet engine testing facility outside of England.

One of the world’s top two aircraft engine makers, Rolls-Royce at Stennis Space Center will test its latest engine technologies to make aircraft and ships more efficient.

Rolls-Royce is no stranger to Mississippi. I’ve worked for many years with their marine propeller manufacturing facility in Jackson County. Rolls-Royce is a good corporate citizen, a company committed to making products that will meet 21st Century transportation needs. Like Chevron, they’re confident in Mississippi’s people and our future.

These are significant projects for our state and for all America. They’re good investments in existing technology geared toward making the free world more secure. (10/19/07)

Senator Lott welcomes any questions or comments about this column. Write to: U.S. Senator Trent Lott, 487 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510 (Attn: Press Office)