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Editor‚Äôs note: This is the first of two stories developed from an interview with Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant, who visited with the Starkville Daily News staff Thursday afternoon. The second installment will appear in Sunday‚Äôs paper.
Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant envisions a Mississippi where biofuel is produced, refined and consumed within the state, with Mississippi State University being a research leader in the fuel sub-sector.
Bryant hopes Mississippi will become the birthplace of biofuel standardization, akin to what transpired in Pennsylvania in the early 1900s with ground-extracted oil.
‚ÄúMississippi State‚Äôs going to play a huge part in that,‚ÄĚ he said.
MSU received a $1 million grant in the legislative package which helped in landing KiOR, a Texas-based biofuels company which plans to build three plants in the next five years in Mississippi.
The sites include the areas around Columbus and Newton and an as-yet-determined location in the southwestern part of the state.
The company intends to use the state‚Äôs wood biomass supplies to create bio-crude.
Bryant met with MSU officials Thursday to discuss the university‚Äôs research efforts in this area. He provided additional details on the grant to MSU.
‚ÄúThis is an independent grant to Mississippi State for their further research and development of biofuels. It is not connected or dependent upon the success, failure or involvement of KiOR,‚ÄĚ he said.
‚Äú... I think KiOR is going to see some of the process that has been developed at Mississippi State that would actually enhance what they are doing so we may have just a really beautiful ‚Äėperfect storm‚Äô partnership,‚ÄĚ Bryant said.
He‚Äôs bullish on the state‚Äôs broader prospects for energy development as well as prospective growth in biofuels.
‚ÄúI think our energy sector in Mississippi is the largest economic development opportunity that we have,‚ÄĚ he said, citing not only KiOR but also the planned clean coal gasification plant in Kemper County, expansion of Chevron‚Äôs Gulf Coast refinery and work to reclaim oil in old rigs.
‚ÄúEnergy is going to be something that‚Äôs going to be not only a commodity we use to bring in other industry but a commodity that we‚Äôll be able to sell to other states,‚ÄĚ Bryant said.
Bryant sees a circle for the Mississippi biofuel market, starting with trees cut in the state then processed at KiOR, then on to an in-state refinery and finally into the ‚Äútanks of Mississippi consumers and businesses,‚ÄĚ he said.
‚ÄúI think when that happens, we will somewhat be in control of our fate. Think of a market that we will have within the boundaries of the state of Mississippi to produce the crude, refine the crude and provide it to our consumers,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚Äú
That‚Äôs what I would like to see.‚ÄĚ
Bryant says what he enjoys in economic development as lieutenant governor is to do the research and be able to present legislation to the Senate ‚ÄúI can do so with some certainty.‚ÄĚ
He also says getting university-based research and development on the market can make an impact.
‚ÄúIf we could harvest the research and development that our universities are doing and get them into the marketplace ‚ÄĒ and we‚Äôve had some success doing that ‚ÄĒ I think it changes everything for a research university like Mississippi State,‚ÄĚ Bryant said.