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Opinion: Seismic testing would tell us what's out there

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Offshore Drilling Regulations (copy) (copy)

FILE - In this May 1, 2009 file photo, offshore oil drilling platform 'Gail' operated by Venoco, Inc., is shown off the coast of Santa Barbara, Calif. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson, File)

Surrounding the discussion on American energy, it’s becoming clear that science and data are drowned out by misinformation and fear-mongering.

As America is becoming the global leader in energy production and innovation, we must be mindful not to take for granted the benefits of self-reliance, nor should we ignore the long-term energy needs both at home and abroad. Natural gas and oil will continue to be essential to United States economic progress and quality of life for decades to come.

At the same time, global demand for energy is going to increase more than 30 percent by 2040, primarily due to the growth of India and China, and much of that will come from oil and gas. If the United States is going to maintain its self-reliance and prominent role in the global energy market, it is to the benefit of our economy and consumers everywhere to know exactly what is beneath our own feet.

Critical to gaining that information is seismic surveying. Seismic surveys are a proven, environmentally sound technology with a decades-long track record of success. Advances in imaging technology and data analytics over the past decade have dramatically improved the energy sector’s ability to locate natural resources offshore and reduce the number of wells drilled.

“Keep It In The Ground” advocates assert claims that seismic imaging processes have levied untold damage to marine life. But those claims are false. Strict federal regulations are imposed on seismic surveying vessels, including the requirement to cease operations if marine mammals are detected in the ship’s vicinity and providing for special closure areas to protect the main migratory route for the endangered North Atlantic right whale.

According to official analyses by then-President Barack Obama’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management there has been no documented scientific evidence of noise from air guns used in geological seismic activities adversely affecting marine animal populations or coastal communities. To offer real-world proof, marine life and commercial fishing have not only survived but thrived in the Gulf of Mexico, where seismic activity has been conducted for more than 30 years. According to the most recent report from NOAA, offshore fishing in the Gulf of Mexico supports more than 140,000 jobs and creates about $25 billion in economic impact.

Logically then, there is no reason to believe that South Carolina’s shores would be affected any differently.

These practices aren’t exclusively used by the natural resource energy industry either. On the contrary, seismic surveys are frequently used by the U.S. Geological Survey, the National Science Foundation and the offshore wind industry. I don’t see quite the outrage directed at those organizations as I do the energy industry.

With the safe extraction of resources, we can provide hundreds of thousands of jobs, including jobs for veterans; help American energy consumers; and if our elected officials allow revenue sharing, the state would receive funding for critical services such as infrastructure and education. Continued growth in American energy production also reduces our reliance on energy imported from countries such as Venezuela, where economic and individual freedoms no longer exist.

All these factors combined strengthen our national security.

These essential practices have helped our nation to thrive and prosper. Opposition to testing is illogical when the process only seeks to discover what might be recoverable. Knowledge is always superior to ignorance

William L. Schachte Jr. of Charleston is a retired Navy rear admiral.

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