Trump Offshore Drilling (copy)

FILE - In this May 13, 2010 file photo, pelicans float on the water with an offshore oil platform in the background in the Santa Barbara Channel off the coast of Santa Barbara, Calif. 

South Carolina, like every other state, depends on oil and natural gas to fuel our local economies and power our daily lives. We rely on accessible, affordable energy for everything from cooking dinner to driving to work to heating our homes.

As we plan for the future, we must realize the decisions we make about our energy resources today lay the foundation for what kind of state we will call home tomorrow.

I am pleased to be leading the effort “Explore Offshore SC” we announced earlier this month — a coalition of community organizations, associations, businesses and local leaders who support increased access to our U.S. offshore resources. Our focus is to secure reliable domestic energy and stronger national security for decades to come — made possible, in part, through responsible and safe offshore exploration and development.

Our nation’s future energy needs will require the discovery of and accessibility to new resources from right here at home. Offshore exploration represents a vast, untapped source of potential energy. Unfortunately, 94 percent of America’s offshore acreage is off limits to oil and natural gas development – current policies won’t even allow for the study of those areas.

However, this past January, U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke took a major step toward ending this moratorium by announcing a new National Offshore Leasing Program to explore and develop the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS).

From the last government estimates — which are nearly three decades old — the OCS could hold over 89 billion barrels of oil and 327 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. I think all sides should be able to agree that it’s certainly time we take a fresh look at our reserves using state of the art technology so we can at least know what it is we’re talking about.

Over the last 30 years, seismic surveying technology and methods have improved greatly and are safer than ever. Additionally, since 2010, more than 100 regulations and industry standards have been implemented or strengthened. South Carolinians can support offshore operations confident in their proven ability to safely coexist with our tourism, fishing industry and the military.

South Carolina is projected to see the second highest levels of spending, employment and gross domestic product growth if Atlantic offshore resources are developed — creating much-needed jobs and increasing revenues for state and local budgets. This is real money to provide pay raises for schoolteachers and build better roads.

Offshore development could bring over $2 billion in private-sector investment into our state’s economy and add $3.8 billion to our state budget per year. This could create 34,000 much needed jobs in the state in different industries, from retail to health care. New jobs would also include oil and natural gas exploration and development positions, which on average pay $116,000 and do not always require a college degree.

It’s a myth that communities of color are not interested in supporting offshore exploration. I’ve personally attended town hall meetings up and down South Carolina’s coast where there has been significant support for the economic opportunity offshore exploration holds — especially in communities that have been historically disenfranchised. This would be a gamechanger for improving the quality of life for many of those communities and others across our state.

Our mission is to unite stakeholders and supporters of offshore exploration to promote its many benefits through key coalition partners like local Chambers of Commerce, the American Legacy Center, S.C. BIPEC, the Palmetto Promise Institute, the S.C. Association of Taxpayers and others.

Join us in this effort to take commonsense steps toward securing America’s energy and economic future. It’s time we Explore Offshore SC.

Stephen Gilchrist is the chairman of Explore Offshore SC and also serves as the Chairman of the S.C. African American Chamber of Commerce.