The energy industry is a consistent driver of employment and economic growth in many areas of the country, from the Rocky Mountains to northern Appalachia and down to the Gulf Coast region. Unfortunately, the Southeast has been largely left out of the nation's recent energy boom in part because the waters off our Atlantic Coast are off-limits to oil and natural gas exploration and production. Now a new study shows just what granting access to those resources could mean for North Carolina and other East Coast states.
No state would benefit more than North Carolina. The study by Quest Offshore Resources finds that industry capital investments and operational spending in the Tar Heel State during the 2017-2035 period would exceed $26 billion. Additionally, more than 55,000 jobs would be created by 2035, more than $4 billion would be contributed to the state economy, and cumulative state government revenue sharing from rentals, royalties and bonus bids would approach $4 billion.
Much of these benefits would flow to cities along the North Carolina coast, particularly here in Wilmington and in Morehead City where the existing port infrastructure would provide ready-made support to any efforts to explore and extract oil and natural gas off our shores. These jobs and benefits are in addition to any jobs created by offshore wind development.
All told, the study finds that opening the U.S. Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) to offshore oil and natural gas exploration in 2017 could create nearly 280,000 jobs across the country and generate $51 billion in tax revenue for governments at all levels by 2035.
In addition, new domestic energy will lessen the need for oil imports from politically unstable nations. Given the huge potential benefits to our economy and national security, it's hard to understand why the Obama administration once again denied access in its latest OCS five-year leasing program, issued in 2012.
Fortunately, many of our state policymakers are on board and support is bipartisan. State lawmakers recently passed legislation directing Gov. Pat McCrory to form a regional energy compact with Virginia and South Carolina, where strong support for offshore exploration and production also exists, for the purposes of pooling resources to change federal policy and support activities once that change occurs.
McCrory, a member of the OCS Governors Coalition, also is expected to push a comprehensive energy package, including offshore drilling, during the next legislative session in May. He has already been talking to officials in Washington about the need to lift the current prohibition on drilling for oil and natural gas off the Atlantic Coast. Our state and federal representatives need to keep up this pressure to make sure we're included in the next OCS plan, which will begin in 2017.
Well-regulated, safe exploration and production off the untapped Atlantic Coast would improve not only our energy security and trade balance, but would generate tremendous employment and economic development benefits here in our state and all along the Eastern Seaboard. North Carolinians deserve nothing less.
Wilmington resident Ann Chapman works for the National Ocean Industries Association in Washington, D.C., which represents all facets of the domestic offshore energy and related industries.