Offshore drilling could impact Myrtle Beach for the better and worse

For Weekly SurgeAugust 21, 2013 

A battle has been taking place in our country for years. Each side is strong. Both have plenty of support. Each is a rich treasure, but in completely different ways. One is liquid gold and the other is a natural beauty. We need both, but it’s difficult and almost impossible to pick one over the other.

It’s the environment vs. the economy.

There is considerable discussion about the potential launch of drilling for oil and natural gas off South Carolina’s coast. Thousands of jobs are being promised, economic riches are sought out, but environmental risks are dangling in front of us. Offshore drilling is risky because other chemicals and toxins, such as mercury and lead, get dug up and released back into the ocean. These chemicals, along with the oil, harm sea life and disorient the animals. But the other side claims improved technology and better government oversight. Definitely not sold on the latter part of that sentence, considering much of the oil industry may be tainted by self-regulation.

And some recent survey claims that 94 percent of the U.S. population is pro-offshore drilling. Did you get a survey? I sure didn’t. Curious.

It has been estimated that offshore on the East Coast between Maryland and Florida, there could be as many as 3 billion barrels of oil that could be produced in 30 years. Off the shore of South Carolina alone, there could be more than 761 million barrels of oil and more than 3.6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, according to the ICF International.

The United States already uses roughly 18 million barrels of oil every day, with 30 percent from offshore rigs, already. We are drivers, passengers, eaters and workers. We use oil for transportation, consumption, production, and so much more. Try living without oil. Don’t drive your car, don’t buy or use anything made from plastic, don’t eat anything unless you grow it yourself. Even still, oil is a part of lives in so many aspects. It would be an extreme challenge to live without it.

Have you ever heard of Beth Terry in Oakland, Calif.? For nearly six years, she has been living a plastic-free life. For her, it was a photo that changed her life. The photo showed the carcass of a dead sea bird with its belly full of plastic pieces, bottle caps and even a toothbrush. Since then, she dedicated her life to not buy new plastic, find alternatives and write to corporations. She has even written a book and several blogs. Learn more about her at www.myplasticfreelife.com

Our dependence on oil isn’t going to end anytime soon and replacing oil will require determination and conscience behaviors. Solar panels and wind turbines have a lot of work ahead. And guess what? Even EV stations are essentially powered by fossil fuels too, it is sourced from electric power.

On the economic vitality side, the oil and natural gas industry today supports more than 68,000 jobs in South Carolina. These jobs add $4.3 billion to the state’s gross, or 2.8 percent of its wealth. The economy of oil is a rich industry and bringing more into the state domestically would reduce our international dependence.

But one oil spill would result in massive environmental problems and unforeseen impacts to South Carolina’s tourism industry, which nets more than $16 billion a year. One spill could cost the state millions and billions of dollars to clean-up.

Are we willing to take that risk? What do we save, a few pennies at the gas pumps? We need to consider saving the sustainability of the environment. We need to consider saving the economic future of our tourism industry. Oil may create jobs and additional revenue, but some drops of oil in the ocean and we lose the battle for both sides.

Maybe we need to aggressively work to develop offshore wind energy along South Carolina’s coast. And hey, there just so happens to be an upcoming conference in Charleston, Sept. 11-12, hosted by the Southeastern Coastal Wind Coalition ( http://www.secoastalwind.org/ ).

Jennifer Sellers is the sustainability coordinator at Coastal Carolina University and offers her eco-views at her blog, mygreenglasses.com. Contact her at jen@mygreenglasses.com.

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