Mississippi’s next great opportunity: carbon capture and storage

Published 9:53 am Thursday, June 6, 2024

Mississippi’s legislative session ended earlier this month, offering lawmakers the chance to reflect on our time in Jackson. While this year’s session saw several triumphs, such as the passage of significant education reform, we leave the State House with many essential items to address in the coming year. Among these central priorities is the need to stimulate further economic growth and provide new opportunities for Mississippians by opening our doors to new industries. That’s why carbon capture and storage (CCS) should be at the top of our agenda when we return next year.

Carbon capture and storage is one of Mississippi’s most promising growth opportunities. The proven technology, which has been safely used in the Gulf Coast region for more than 50 years, captures carbon dioxide from large industries and injects it over half a mile underground for permanent and safe storage in unique geological formations, which are prevalent in Mississippi. Through this process, facilities like manufacturing centers and oil and natural gas refineries can dramatically reduce the CO2 emissions they release, with studies showing reductions of up to 90%.

These reductions are essential to Mississippi’s future in energy production. As global consumer demand for low-carbon products continues to shift energy markets, CCS does not force us to scale back our vital energy or manufacturing sectors. Instead, it allows us to continue using these abundant resources, maintaining the jobs and investments of carbon-intensive industries like steel and fertilizer that support communities statewide.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

Beyond retaining the jobs we already have and reducing our emissions, CCS is also a significant driver of economic growth. As we have seen in neighboring Louisiana and Texas, embracing CCS will create thousands of construction and operation jobs and bring tens of millions of dollars in investments. Former Gov. Haley Barbour recently warned in the Magnolia Tribune that Mississippi risks falling behind our neighboring states in attracting industrial development if we wait to embrace carbon capture and storage. If we want the next multi-billion-dollar manufacturer to locate in Vicksburg, or other communities in our state, we have to be proactive and see where the market is going. CCS isn’t some far-fetched Green New Deal science project – it’s a serious, job-creating, economic supercharger that enhances natural gas resources produced in the United States.

Thanks to our unique geology and experienced workforce, industry leaders like ExxonMobil have already begun bringing these opportunities to the Magnolia State. Following their purchase of Denbury’s extensive pipeline system for transporting captured CO2, new investments are on the horizon in western Mississippi. Yet, beyond the economic growth, industry leaders have also shown a commitment to partnering with the communities in which they operate. For instance, ExxonMobil recently hosted a legislative roundtable that I attended to discuss CCS implementation in the state, providing local leaders with reassuring transparency about their goals and operations in our community. They have also taken it another step forward by supporting local charities and organizations, paying for fire departments to send volunteer firefighters to world-leading training facilities at Texas A&M, and leading a CCS-centered STEM camp for students and teachers at Jackson State this summer.

Actions like these are an encouraging affirmation of the industry’s intent to help grow Mississippi into a leader in low-carbon production. Now, it’s time for state lawmakers to embrace the same attitude. Between its economic, community and environmental benefits, CCS is a clear win-win for Mississippi, and we are already seeing its value here in Vicksburg. As such, I hope to see my colleagues join me in supporting CCS-enabling legislation in next year’s session.

Representative Kevin Ford is a member of the Mississippi House of Representatives, serving District 54.