As South Carolinians kick off this spring, they will likely start thinking about the summer season, vacation plans, and their potential energy costs. From how high gas pump prices will rise this summer to how much electricity bills may run as air conditioners are blaring, conversations will likely gravitate towards the nation’s energy policy and what our policymakers are doing to help keep consumer’s energy costs down.
But as we find our nation with more available domestic resources each day, the conversation should also be about how the United States can pursue energy independence – in South Carolina and across the nation – in a profitable and environmentally responsible manner.
With all of these resources available to us, onshore and offshore as well, we are presented with the opportunity to ensure our economic health through the capacity to generate our own affordable, reliable fuel sources. But this opportunity will only be realized if we are able to take advantage of our abundant resources in a way that is prudent and in line with our nation’s goal of reaching energy self-sufficiency.
Playing a great part in this national conversation is the state of South Carolina. South Carolina has been a leader in the past in renewable energy initiatives, as well as a state that offers a number of valuable natural resources.
Policymakers across the state are recognizing the importance of advancing legislation that will allow companies to explore and capitalize upon the offshore production opportunities available to us. For instance, just last month Congressman Jeff Duncan introduced the South Carolina Offshore Drilling Act. If passed, the legislation will allow the state to take part in the nation’s five-year plan for offshore production and exploration. Furthermore, the governors of South Carolina and a few other coastal states recently sent a letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewel, urging her to discontinue federal opposition to offshore drilling.
Legislators aren’t the only ones looking forward to the benefits offshore development will bring. A few years ago, the American Petroleum Institute commissioned a study which found that there could be as much as 3.5 trillion cubic feet of national gas off of South Carolina’s coast. Calculations show that the production from this area has the potential to bring more than 7,500 jobs to the state, have a statewide economic impact of more than $2.2 billion per year, and create state revenues of approximately $87.5 million. In addition to creating thousands of high-paying jobs and providing substantial benefits to the state’s struggling economy, offshore exploration and production could also generate significant revenues for state and local governments.
Another offshore opportunity available to South Carolina is through wind energy – a source of energy that is gaining prominence throughout the state as more investments are being made in that industry. South Carolina is home to the second largest offshore wind resource on the East Coast, and aims to generate 1,000 megawatts by 2020. Accordingly, the state is investing in new wind turbines, including ones currently being manufactured in the Palmetto state.
According to the American Wind Energy Association, at least 17 facilities in South Carolina currently manufacture components for the wind energy industry. GE, the leading wind turbine manufacturer, has a turbine assembly facility in Greenville, while other wind energy supply chain manufacturers, including Kaydon Bearnings and PPG Industries, also operate plants in the state.
States such as South Carolina are primed to be leaders in energy, given their position and connection to offshore resources.
Pursuing various energy sources such as those mentioned above will lead to a diverse and stable energy policy. In fact, the Southeast Energy Alliance will be discussing the Palmetto State’s offshore energy potential on May 1 in Myrtle Beach at the “South Carolina Energy & Opportunity Forum,” which will feature speeches by former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and Reps. Tom Rice and Jeff Duncan.
With a need to diversify our energy sources and improve energy efficiency to ensure stable and affordable energy supplies for consumers, it is clear that states like South Carolina will need to lead by example, given their position and connection to their available energy resources. With this in mind, it is important that our leaders strongly consider the options available to them, and continue to lead the nation in promoting a balanced, all of the above approach to energy policy. This approach will help ensure that we are moving forward toward an energy future that is strong, reliable, and beneficial to all.
Waldeck is executive director of the Southeast Energy Alliance.
This article first appeared at Myrtle Beach Online.