BY CHRIS CARNEVALE
Gov. Nikki Haley’s recent letter to Secretary of the Interior nominee, Sally Jewell, encourages her leadership to open opportunities for offshore energy production here in the Southeast (“Haley, 2 other governors appeal for offshore oil,” Feb. 15). In order for offshore energy production to truly benefit South Carolina and its neighboring states, some very important clarifications are in order.
Although there are two potential energy sources off our coast — offshore wind and offshore petroleum products — only one of these sources is the strategic choice that can yield the best return on investment. Informed offshore energy development for the Palmetto State prioritizes offshore wind energy and excludes offshore oil and gas based on economics — pure and simple.
Even ignoring the fact that President George W. Bush’s Department of Energy concluded that opening all of the U.S.’s offshore areas to drilling could only lower gas prices by 3 cents (by the year 2030) and the fact that geologists have long stated that the geologic conditions for large deposits of oil and gas do not exist off of South Carolina’s coast, offshore drilling is more a liability than an asset for South Carolina’s economy.
While economic impact studies have suggested that South Carolina may create a few thousand oil drilling jobs, it must be understood that these oil jobs would stand in direct conflict with the established and thriving in-state industries of tourism and fishing.
The University of South Carolina’s Moore School of Business estimates that 80,000 South Carolinians work in the coastal tourism economy and generate over $3.5 billion each year. Furthermore, an additional 6,000 South Carolinians work in fishing and generate approximately another $500 million per year.
As we saw with the BP Gulf oil disaster, one oil spill can decimate tourism and fishing industries for years to come.
Would it be wise to compromise our existing 86,000 tourism and fishing jobs for a few thousand potential drilling jobs?
Offshore wind energy, on the other hand, does not threaten tourism or fishing. In fact, Clemson University research recently concluded that beach-goers and other marine recreationists in the Grand Strand are supportive of installing offshore wind farms. It’s no coincidence that North Myrtle Beach, one of the most renowned coastal tourism cities in America, has recently declared itself a Wind Powered Economic Zone, seeking to supply 100 percent of its electricity from a nearby offshore wind farm in the coming years.
The economic potential for offshore wind in South Carolina is huge. We have the second greatest offshore wind resource along the East Coast, enough to become a power exporter. Clemson research has shown that developing one gigawatt of offshore wind (or about 225,000 homes’ worth of power), which is just a portion of our total resource potential, would create nearly 3,900 jobs, generate $366 million in output, and contribute $61 million in local and state taxes and revenue.
Furthermore, given our world-class port facilities, we have the capability to become an international hub for the wind industry, exporting materials, components, and technology up and down the East Coast and to Europe and Asia, where markets are waiting.
We laud Governor Haley’s leadership in partnering with neighboring states to develop our indigenous offshore energy resources, but we implore her to let facts guide her actions.And the facts are very clear: offshore wind, not offshore drilling, is the real opportunity for the Palmetto State.
Chris Carnevale is coordinator of Coastal Climate and Energy for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. in Charleston.