South Carolina Democrats convene their state convention in Columbia on June 22. At least 14 candidates vying to win the party’s presidential nomination will join them.
While numerous issues will be discussed, one should rise to the top due to its extreme importance to our state — offshore drilling.
We can expect that, if asked, all the candidates will state their opposition to offshore drilling in the Atlantic. Some will point to congressional bills they have sponsored, proposals to work with Congress or letters they have signed to demonstrate their opposition on the issue.
However, these alone won’t pass the offshore-drilling litmus test that I proposed nearly two months ago in an op-ed in The Post and Courier.
The litmus test is very simple. The candidate must pledge to sign on day one of his or her administration an executive order banning new oil drilling leases on public lands and waters. This order would effectively block offshore drilling in the Atlantic, an extremely important bipartisan goal of East Coast voters.
Only such a commitment to a unilateral, first-day action will demonstrate the candidate’s conviction to protect the vibrant tourism, commercial fishing and recreation economies of the Atlantic Coast.
Proposals for legislative action are unlikely to be successful in the short term or at all. Even worse, delayed action indicates a failure to understand South Carolinians’ strong rejection of oil industrialization of our coast with its inevitable spills and leaks polluting our coastline.
Yet, as of this writing, only four Democratic presidential candidates have passed this litmus test — Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke and Gov. Jay Inslee.
Warren was the inspiration for the litmus test, which followed her proposal for a first day “total moratorium on all new fossil fuel leases, including for drilling offshore and on public lands.”
By the end of April this litmus test was adopted by O’Rourke in his announcement of a climate agenda.
When Biden released his detailed plan for addressing climate change this month, his Day One Executive Actions included “banning new oil and gas permitting on public lands and waters.”
Inslee has made his first day pledge on his website’s public policy agenda.
Other candidates might also plan to join Warren, Biden, O’Rourke and Inslee, but they are running out of time to win over South Carolina voters.
Some candidates might feel that making such a pledge puts them in jeopardy of alienating primary and general election voters of the Gulf and non-coastal western states.
But that’s what leadership is all about — taking a position for the greater good and bringing all the country along with you.
Biden, Warren, O’Rourke and Inslee understand that this offshore drilling litmus test is for the greater good of our nation.
Yes, it would protect Atlantic Coast economies. However, it is also a recognition that our nation, including Gulf and western states, is imperiled by a rapidly changing climate that threatens not only our country but also the world.
Our federal government must transition our economy away from carbon-polluting energy, which drives climate change, to technologies that protect our environment while growing our economy. The United States is not in danger of running out of oil, but we are in danger from cataclysmic climate-induced events.
South Carolina voters are watching the Democratic candidates as they continue to release their plans on how they would address climate change. The Day One ban on new oil leases on public lands and waters must be part of these proposals.
So, if you happen to run into a Democratic candidate for president, tell them that they need to pass the offshore-drilling litmus test if they want your support.
Frank Knapp Jr. is president and CEO of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce.