South Carolinians received some bad news last week in the form of the Obama administration’s new five-year Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) leasing plan.
The plan denies access to oil and gas resources offshore South Carolina and other East Coast states. It preserves the status quo and ignores bipartisan calls in South Carolina, Virginia, and other states for the opportunity to pursue the jobs, income, and economic growth that come with access to new energy resources.
The restrictive plan prevents us from conducting exploration activities that would help to determine exactly how much oil and natural gas lies in the 85 percent of the outer continental shelf (OCS) that it places off-limits.
Even using data reliant upon decades-old technology, the federal government estimates that more than seven billion barrels of oil and 27.5 trillion feet of natural gas await discovery off the East Coast.
Those numbers are huge; in terms of natural gas alone, that’s enough to meet our country’s needs for almost a decade.
When you consider that we have produced six times more oil and gas from the Gulf of Mexico than experts believed would ever be available during the 1980s due to increased access and technological innovation, it’s hard to understand why we’re not even allowed to go look.
The offshore oil and natural gas industry already directly and indirectly employs more than 63,000 South Carolinians in jobs in sectors ranging from transportation to manufacturing. If we were able to take advantage of what lies off our shores, that number would grow considerably. So would the amount of money that flows into state coffers as a result of taxes and fees associated with exploration and production.
Our state leaders understand the potential. In early June, Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., and U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., with the support of Gov. Nikki Haley, introduced federal legislation seeking to accelerate oil and gas development offshore of our state.
They see what’s happening in North Dakota, Wyoming, and other states that are able to develop energy resources on state-owned and private lands to fuel economic booms.
Opening up these areas will mean more jobs in South Carolina and many other states, greater federal and state revenue, and enhanced energy security for many years to come.
Congress should take advantage of the opportunity missed by the administration and open the door to new areas to explore, new jobs for South Carolinians, and new homegrown energy for the country.
Lewis F. Gossett
Lewis F. Gossett is the president and CEO of the South Carolina Manufacturers Alliance.