By L.A. Warren
Mississippi state Rep. Angela Cockerham, a JSU alum, told an audience of business leaders and lawmakers during the recent Mississippi Economic Council’s Legislative Scrambler that expanding offshore drilling on the Gulf Coast would net major dividends for the state.
Cockerham is a 14-year legislative veteran who discussed with business leaders and colleagues a topic she’s quite familiar with as chair of the House Energy Committee.
“We’re at the pinnacle in energy in Mississippi, and we don’t want to lose sight and focus,” said Cockerham, speaking recently at the Mississippi Museum of Art. She explained that because Mississippi’s energy efforts have helped boost revenue and employment opportunities, a greater focus must be placed on the following:
- Oil and gas
- Energy security
- Public and private partnerships that incorporate institutions of higher learning, including community colleges, for work development
“I can remember about seven years ago when Gov. (Phil) Bryant said he was going to make energy one of our top priorities. He said Mississippi would become an energy state. We have accomplished a lot in this state. So, I should impress upon you that we not rest on our laurels,” she admonished.
Also, Cokerham told the audience that the state’s energy success is due to public-private partnerships that have been forged.
“I was really happy in 2017 when our president said we’re going to expand our offshore oil and drilling. Then, in July 2018, we saw a draft of the plan. It encompasses our Gulf of Mexico. I’m excited about the potential for offshore drilling with increased revenue and jobs for the state of Mississippi,” she said.
Cockerham said the state will benefit significantly. Exuding confidence, she said studies show that the potential economic impact for Mississippi through 2019 could soar to $1.6 billion in gross domestic product.
She suggested that rising profits could be linked to China having become the largest importer of oil.
“In 1997, China changed it energy strategy to mirror the U.S. Now, since China has become the largest importer of oil because its production is extremely low, the entire energy landscape has now changed.”
The flipside of the China dilemma, she said, is greater concern and need for energy security, cybersecurity and emergency preparedness.
Therefore, Cockerham is urging Mississippi to be involved in these upcoming developments, especially after Energy Secretary Rick Perry recently announced that the Department of Energy would apportion $96 million to address those three crucial areas.
“Mississippi needs to be part of the plan. We need to start thinking about energy security and cybersecurity as it relate to everyone of us in the public sector.” Cockerham sees an opportunity for academic research through public-private relationships.
She said several institutions already have made strides in various types of research. Specifically, she cites JSU and Mississippi State for studies into space weather and solar research, respectively.
She said opportunities are expanding ever so greatly because of current energy needs.
“Now, our universities are encouraging students to think about energy not just in terms of academics but also developing new technology in Mississippi that can be utilized nationally as well as globally,” Cockerham said.