Zeal for domestic oil production hit a gusher at the 2008 Republican convention.
Michael Steele, Maryland’s lieutenant governor from 2003-07 and later (2009-11) chairman of the Republican National Committee, sparked a loud combustion when he issued the call to the delegates in St. Paul, Minn., to “Drill, baby, drill.”
Later that night, Sarah Palin, John McCain’s strange choice of running mate (why didn’t he pick trusty sidekick Lindsey Graham?), led rousing chants of that slogan.
And the notion of America capitalizing on homegrown fossil fuel for both energy independence and free-market prosperity retains powerful appeal for most conservatives, including me.
For instance, we agreed — and still do — with Palin’s advocacy of oil drilling way up and over yonder in the remote, vast Arctic Wildlife Refuge.
Then a few years later, when the fracking boom began, we also welcomed — and still do — that technological breakthrough in the common-sense cause of lowering reliance on oil-rich creeps in distant realms while lifting crude U.S. profits.
Now, though, as the push to drill for natural gas and maybe even at some point oil off South Carolina’s coast intensifies, more than a few conservatives around here, including me, aren’t just saying, “No.”
We’re saying, “Heck no!” — or some unprintable variation on that resistance theme.
Picky, picky, picky.
Hey, go ahead and call us NIMBYs (Not In My Back Yarders).
But South Carolina’s relatively pristine coast is much more than a “back yard.”
It is, unlike that Arctic Wildlife Refuge in Alaska (and most of that state’s residents favor drilling there), our state’s most precious natural — and economic — resource.
Yes, you can still catch and safely eat fish proliferating off the Louisiana coast despite the massive BP spill that began five years and three days ago nearly a mile deep in the Gulf of Mexico about 40 miles off Louisiana’s coast.
And while The Associated Press revealed last week that federal authorities have severely underreported the extent and continuation of an oil leak that began just 10 miles off that same coast a decade ago, most Louisianans still support the oil industry — likely because it supports so many of them.
Yet South Carolina isn’t Louisiana.
And Charleston isn’t — and should never be — Houston.
You don’t have to buy exaggerated horror stories about offshore drilling’s environmental hazards, even with occasional spills, to recognize the onshore folly of turning this — or any other S.C. coastal community — into an oil town.
Still, every member of our congressional delegation except the 6th District’s James Clyburn, the No. 3 Democrat in the House, backs moving forward toward drilling off the state coast’s.
Though Mark Sanford opposed that idea as governor, he now consents, in his second stint as our 1st District representative, to exploring offshore drilling’s S.C. potential.
Then again, assorted municipal councils along our state’s coast are increasingly saying, in effect, “Don’t drill, baby, don’t drill.”
Among those that have passed resolutions against it: Charleston, Folly Beach, Hilton Head Island, the Isle of Palms, James Island and Sullivan’s Island.
That doesn’t mean all of us coastal residents overlook the vital need for American-drilled oil — and natural gas — from a successful U.S. petroleum industry.
Meanwhile, my esteem for the hard-working, risk-taking folks in that venture — especially Texans — endures.
Indeed, the hard call to move back to Charleston from Dallas a quarter of a century ago came only after imagining launching my own oil company.
Three obvious factors capped that rig of fantasy:
1) Lack of capital.
2) Ignorance of the oil field.
3) Awareness that if Wooten Oil became a thriving enterprise, my two children would probably grow into a bitter rivalry for my approval as the heir apparent to its control.
After all, look how J.R. (Larry Hagman) and Bobby (Patrick Duffy) battle for that prize on CBS’ classic “Dallas,” and their sons John Ross (Josh Henderson) and Christopher (Jesse Metcalfe) do the same on the recent TNT sequel series.
Still, it was tempting to emulate J.R. by not just going into the oil “bidness” instead of staying in newspaper work but by going as R.F. instead of Frank.
And don’t we all occasionally wonder about what we might have missed on the road not taken?
Back to here-and-now reality on this day after Earth Day:
Just as America needs more nuclear, wind and solar energy, we also will require more oil, natural gas and coal power for decades to come.
However, before backing, or merely accepting, drilling off of the S.C. coast, consider the possible consequences.
Consider, too, this timeless advice from Jock Ewing (Jim Davis) to his youngest child on the original “Dallas”:
“There comes a time, Bobby, when you’ve gotta face facts: We’ve drilled a dry hole.”
And if you’re still pumping the alleged advantages of South Carolina going into the offshore-drilling “bidness,” it’s come time for you to face these facts about the widespread reaction you’ll keep getting around here:
No sale, no way, no how.
Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is email@example.com.