Standing against drilling

James Island residents Woody Taylor (from right) and Bridgette Buettner join Ryan Maier of Gunnison, Colo., Saturday at Folly Beach for the 'Hands Across the Sand' opposition to offshore drilling.

FOLLY BEACH -- Monty Miles drove down from Columbia Saturday to take a stand in the sand against offshore drilling.

"I feel that strongly about it," Miles said. "The ocean is the most important resource we have in the world.

Miles added: "I feel like our government is not taking control and stopping what's going on."

Miles wasn't alone.

More than 200 people clasped hands and stood in the surf in a quarter-mile stretch near the Folly Beach pier as part of the international movement "Hands Across the Sand" to unite against offshore drilling and urge politicians to end America's dependence on oil.

Participants joined others in more than 800 events in 35 countries.

"We are disheartened by the ongoing devastation in the Gulf," said Toni Reale of the Knoxville, Tenn.-based Southern Alliance for Clean Energy in a press conference prior to the symbolic hand-holding event. "Tens of millions of gallons of oil are still spewing into the Gulf. Enough is enough."

Folly Beach Mayor Tim Goodwin looked out across the swarm of beachcombers and sunbathers from the deck of the Holiday Inn and wondered what it would look like if oil was washing up on the sandy beaches of "The Edge of America."

"The beaches would be empty, and this hotel would look like a ghost town," he said. "People are vacationing here because they have canceled their vacations on the Gulf coast. An oil spill, major or minor, near or far would just completely wipe us out here at Folly Beach."

Local geologist and boat captain Anton DuMars echoed Goodwin's sentiments.

"What if the oil came here?" he asked. "This would all be gone. The shrimpers won't have jobs. The crabbers won't have jobs. The tourists won't come here."

He said people can point fingers at BP for the ongoing disaster in the Gulf of Mexico after an offshore oil rig exploded April 20, killed 11 workers and sent more than 2.3 million barrels of oil gushing from a leak that still has not been plugged, but he said American consumers are really to blame.

"Can we drive less or ride bicycles more?" he asked. "Everybody here understands that. It's the people who aren't here who don't. They need to be told."

What's happened the past two months is a reminder of America's dependence on oil, Hamilton Davis with the Coastal Conservation League said.

"It's way past time for us to demand leadership from our elected officials," he said. "It's not a partisan issue. It's an American issue."

Paul Cantrell of James Island came out to hold hands because he supports wind energy.

"We need windmills and not oil wells," he said. "If a windmill falls into the ocean, no big deal. If an oil rig falls into the ocean and explodes, people die and bad things happen."

Dale Stuckey of Folly Beach wants politicians to consider a clean energy bill.

"I don't want to look at any oil rigs offshore," she said. "There are other options."

Mike Arendt of Eco-Cents energy audit firm called the turnout pleasing after delivering a speech about how dependent America is on nonrenewable energy resources.

"People showed the courage to stand up in front of their peers," he said. "Some might ask, 'What did you just accomplish?' It comes down to taking individual action. It was a crucial first step, even if it was against the social norm. We dismissed the odd looks, and said we are not happy with the way things are going."

Reach Warren Wise at 937-5524 or wwise@postandcourier.com.