Commentary: Which Democratic candidates are serious about blocking offshore drilling?

Commentary: Which Democratic candidates are serious about blocking offshore drilling?

Charleston Post and Courier
February 21, 2020


All the Democratic presidential candidates actively pursuing their party’s nomination have an energy platform to address climate change. The plans differ in their details, but the general goal is a clean-energy economy that replaces fossil fuels with renewables and energy conservation.

However, all plans are not equal and reveal the seriousness of a candidate on the issue.

Proposals that will require Congress to act could fail to be enacted depending on the composition of the U.S. House and Senate. Even if both chambers have Democratic majorities, a president’s clean-energy plan could find resistance from members protecting their own district’s interests or being influenced by the deep-pocketed fossil fuel industry.

Clean-energy proposals that do not include using executive actions available to the president and immune from Congressional inaction must raise questions as to a real commitment to reign in our burning of oil and coal.

There is no better illustration of a candidate’s seriousness on this issue than their position on ending new drilling for oil on public land and waters. If the nation is going to give up its fossil-fuel addition, it must start with banning new oil development on land and waters under the federal government’s control.

Along the Atlantic Coast there is another critical reason for adopting such a policy to address climate change.

Unlike the Gulf and Pacific Coasts, our small-business tourism, commercial fishing and recreation economies on the East Coast have been unharmed by oil spills and leaks. That would change with offshore drilling in the Atlantic and the inevitable oil pollution that will economically devastate the coast.

President Donald Trump has put the mechanisms of the federal government in motion to open the Atlantic to oil exploration and drilling.

Fortunately, political and legal efforts to oppose the President’s plan have temporarily stopped this threat.

However given four more years, Mr. Trump will eventually succeed in unleashing the oil nightmare on communities all along the Atlantic Coast.

Clearly, a president willing to take immediate executive action to promote a clean-energy economy and also protect the Atlantic Coast from oil disasters is imperative.

The South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce, which has led the business opposition to offshore drilling in the Atlantic, launched a campaign last April calling on every Democratic presidential candidate to commit to a Day One Action Plan to ban all new oil drilling leases on public land and waters as proposed by Elizabeth Warren the preceding month.

By using an executive order on the first day in office to achieve this goal, no Congressional action would be necessary thus alleviating concern over which party controlled the House and Senate and by how many seats.

We believe that the adoption of this simple yet effective Day One Action Plan demonstrates how serious a candidate is about protecting the Atlantic Coast from offshore drilling and addressing climate change by moving us to a clean energy economy.

All the Democratic presidential candidate campaigns were contacted numerous times with a request to commit to the Day One Action Plan.

With the SC Democratic primary on February 29, it is time to inform voters of the results of our efforts.

As of February 20, a total of eight candidates signed onto the Day One Action Plan but only four are still running.
Those active candidates committing to ban all new oil drilling leases on public land and waters are (in alphabetical order): Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

None of the other active Democratic candidates on South Carolina’s ballot made the Day One Action Plan commitment even after extensive outreach to and discussions with their campaigns.

Voters now know the candidates who are serious about protecting our Atlantic Coast from offshore drilling and using the power of the office to push for a clean-energy future —Biden, Buttigieg, Sanders and Warren.

Frank Knapp Jr. is the president/CEO of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce.