The federal government has finally given the go-ahead for seismic surveying of potential offshore oil and natural gas resources along the Atlantic Ocean’s outer continental shelf, including the Carolina coast. Seismic surveying is the most important first step toward finding and producing oil and natural gas along the Atlantic seaboard. Unfortunately, environmentalists, pushing an aggressive anti-fossil fuel agenda, are working to derail what is potentially the most important and powerful economic engine available for South Carolina and its mid-Atlantic neighbors. South Carolinians must not let that happen.
Potential oil and natural gas production off South Carolina’s coast promises serious economic benefits for a state continuing to feel the drag of the Great Recession. The state is ranked in a recent study among the 10 worst in terms of overall livability. Unemployment is high. The housing market continues to flounder. State revenue streams remain uncertain.
Clearly, South Carolina desperately needs an economic boost. And offshore drilling is probably the singular generator that is capable of potentially rejuvenating existing industry, creating new industries, driving down unemployment with high-paying entry level jobs, and restoring government revenue on the scale and within the time frame that South Carolina must in order to overcome the financial shortfalls it faces in meeting its obligations to its citizens. Seismic testing is the window to those possibilities.
The shale oil and natural gas revolution sweeping the nation has made the United States the largest producer of oil and gas in the world. Today, the oil and gas industry supports about 9.8 million jobs nationally. What is worthy of note is that average salaries in this industry are approximately seven times the U.S. minimum wage. South Carolina has, to date, missed out on much of the activity.
Outdated seismic surveys from the early 1980s suggested 4.7 billion barrels of oil and 37.5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas lie beneath the Atlantic’s outer continental shelf. The actual amount, however, could be much larger. New information, based on today’s improved technology, will probably greatly enhance the prognosis of estimated reserves, as was the case in the Gulf of Mexico.
Unfortunately, these realistic, substantial economic benefits are in jeopardy. Environmental groups are aggressively and unreasonably seeking to halt oil and gas exploration. They falsely claim that seismic surveys of the ocean floor pose an unnecessary and large-scale threat to tourism and coastal fisheries. This is not so. Seismic sound technology has been used successfully around the world for more than 40 years. There is no substantiated evidence of such harmful impacts.
The Obama administration, normally an ally of these environmental plaintiffs, admits these claims are not justified. Stranger yet, and curiously hypocritical to boot, these environmental activists are strongly supportive of using seismic surveys to site offshore wind farms. The fact is, their dedicated agenda is strictly anti-oil. It is a narrow, negative and unreasonable agenda.
Ultimately, the benefits of offshore energy development to South Carolina, if oil and gas are found, in fact, are not without risks. But they are reasonable, justifiable risks. And the benefits are clear: New industry spending could exceed $2.1 billion per year and support more than 35,000 new jobs by 2035. This revenue would bolster South Carolina’s extensive port infrastructure, grow its high-tech manufacturing sector and other related job-producing industries — which could help accelerate the economic growth — and bring professional and entrepreneurial opportunities, and tens of thousands of well-paying entry level jobs to good people who deserve them.
For too long, the federal government has deprived South Carolina of access to its natural resources. Political strife is currently raking OPEC member countries, projecting instability and an uncertain political future in that region. Consequently, we cannot afford to allow sound economic and energy policy to be blocked by unsubstantiated claims. South Carolinians should be happy to see and take advantage of the fact that the federal government is finally stepping out of the way of our state’s right to substantial and sustainable economic progress.
Robert Alario of Landrum is managing member of Alario & Associates LLC, a member of the National Ocean Industries Association, and former chairman and president of the Offshore Marine Service Association. Email: email@example.com.