Bigger Pie Forum Fighting for Gas Industry, Not Mississippi Consumers

JobKeeper Alliance Statement on President Obama’s Climate Agenda
June 24, 2013
Public hearings held by the Alabama PSC produces results
August 14, 2013

The Bigger Pie Forum’s Kelley Williams and Ashby Foote have a personal stake in seeing Mississippi run solely on natural gas. Their personal agenda will cost jobs and put Mississippi’s families and businesses at great risk.

What Williams, Foote, and Bigger Pie Forum Say

Kelley Williams, Ashby Foote, and Bigger Pie Forum have argued that natural gas is a superior fuel source, touting the abundance and low cost of natural gas and promoting the controversial hydraulic fracturing process (fracking) as a major element of this “gas bonanza”. Foote often writes about the “gas bonanza” and suggests that natural gas, a historically volatile commodity, is the end-all solution for Mississippi’s energy future.[1] As a cohort in Bigger Pie Forum, Williams echoes Foote’s enthusiasm for natural gas, arguing that natural gas plants are the best choice for electricity generation.

Both Williams and Foote have criticized a new power plant in Kemper County, arguing that the state’s Public Service Commission should force the owner, Mississippi Power, to build a power plant fueled by natural gas instead. If it were up to Williams and Foote, in fact, all electricity generation in Mississippi would come from natural gas.

Williams and Foote Are Connected to the Gas Industry

Kelley Williams is a veteran of the oil and gas industry whose company, First Mississippi Corporation, was involved in natural gas exploration. At one point, Williams’s company owned tens of thousands of gas wells and gas leases across 1.5 million acres of America. Williams and his natural gas colleagues have earned tens of millions from oil and gas production.[2] If the Mississippi public is looking for an unbiased perspective on energy sources, Kelley Williams, with his long history in the gas industry, is the last person you should ask.

Similar to Williams, Ashby Foote has been investing his client’s money in the natural gas industry long before the controversial extraction method known as fracking led to what he calls an energy paradigm shift.[3] In 2005, Foote touted Callon Petroleum Company, an oil and natural gas producer, as a wise investment.[4] That same year, natural gas prices peaked 340% higher than the current market price.[5] Foote should know from personal experience just how volatile the price of natural gas is. And like Williams, he is far from a neutral observer on fuel sources.

Williams and Foote are not journalists looking to help Mississippi customers. They are natural gas insiders looking to help themselves and their friends in natural gas.

A Natural Gas Monopoly Puts Mississippi Jobs At Great Risk

Natural gas prices are low today, but there is no guarantee they will remain low. Less than five years ago, natural gas prices were double what they are today.[6] Even in the past six months, natural gas prices have swung by as much as 30%. Natural gas prices that remain stable, without intense price spikes, would be the exception to the rule for what the U.S. has experienced over past decades.

Making Mississippi over-reliant on the price of natural gas puts electricity customers at great risk of significant price volatility. This lack of price predictability drives away existing jobs, makes new businesses harder to recruit, and burdens families. The better solution for the long-term is to generate power from a broad variety of sources, not to put all of our energy eggs into one basket.

By opposing the construction of a new Kemper County power plant, Kelley Williams and Ashby Foote are threatening the jobs of 5,000 workers currently completing construction of the new facility. Even more dangerous, they are supporting a position that could cost many more jobs and weaken Mississippi’s ability to grow its economy in future years.

JobKeeper Alliance strongly opposes the joint venture of the Sierra Club and Bigger Pie Forum to make Mississippi over-reliant on natural gas by opposing competing energy sources.

[1] Foote, Ashby (April 3, 2011) U.S. has gas bonanza
[2] International Directory of Company Histories, Vol. 8. St. James Press, 1994
[3] Mississippi Opportunity Fund Annual Report (February 28, 1997)
[4] Jeter, Lynne W. (March 28, 2005) For many, investing in Mississippi makes sense
[5] Henry Hub Gulf Coast Natural Gas Spot Price, U.S. Energy Information Administration
[6] Henry Hub Gulf Coast Natural Gas Spot Price, U.S. Energy Information Administration