May 2, 2017
As expected, the Trump administration is taking aim again at our coastal economy, working to allow offshore gas and oil drilling in the Mid and South Atlantic that the Obama administration had closed.
What wasn’t expected, when I joined the Business Alliance for Protecting the Atlantic Coast on a trip to Washington a few weeks ago to fight these efforts, was the argument some of our members of Congress make to support this intrusion: They say opening the Atlantic to drilling is necessary to maintain energy security.
How can that be? The entire Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf contains less than 4 percent of the nation’s total oil reserves and less than 3 percent of our gas reserves considered “technically recoverable” by the industry.
This tiny fraction of domestic oil and gas equates to less than a five months’ supply of oil and less than 10 months’ supply of gas at current consumption rates. Even the Department of Interior concedes that drilling in the Atlantic is not necessary for domestic production to remain stable and strong. In fact, at the urging of the oil industry, Congress lifted our oil export ban in 2015 so the industry could sell oil abroad, thus undercuting claims that expanded drilling is necessary for America energy independence.
Does less than a year of oil or gas supply make the difference in energy security? Why do S.C. officials, including U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott, continue to use this excuse to push for drilling the Atlantic?
South Carolina’s pristine shorelines and beach towns are crucial to our state’s economy, attracting millions of visitors annually. Year after year, fishing, tourism and recreation generate more than $4 billion and create roughly 79,000 jobs in South Carolina alone. Our Atlantic Coast is an economic driver that repeatedly and consistently provides revenue for our state while also spurring development throughout the region that would be threatened by the inevitable oil leaks and spills.
Republican Reps. Mark Sanford and Tom Rice oppose offshore oil exploration and drilling. Our senators have the chance to stand alongside them on the issue. We expect these elected officials to back local businesses by protecting our ocean from dirty and dangerous drilling activities and, in doing so, protect our thriving coastal economy from grave risk.