Editorial: S.C. has no future in oil

Post and Courier
January 13, 2019

Gov. Henry McMaster and Attorney General Alan Wilson are welcome additions to a lawsuit seeking to block the Trump administration from allowing oil exploration off the South Carolina coast. There is absolutely no place here for a risky industry that could irreparably harm the state’s economy and environment.

There also is little practical use for it. The United States is now the world’s top oil producer. West Texas crude oil is selling for about $50 a barrel, causing OPEC to consider throttling down production. Adjusted for inflation, gasoline prices are near an all-time low. And we have a glut of cleaner-burning natural gas.

California, with a population of about 40 million, is on pace to get all of its electricity from zero-emission sources by 2045. Texas, the nation’s biggest oil and lignite coal producer, already gets 17 percent of electricity from wind turbines and has its own competitive power market.

That’s the direction South Carolina needs to be headed. Despite the tariffs imposed on imported solar panels last year, the Palmetto State remains ripe for developing solar capacity. And, in the wake of SCANA and Santee Cooper’s multibillion-dollar nuclear boondoggle, lawmakers are finally looking at injecting some competition into South Carolina’s energy markets.

We need to be looking to emerging technologies to make our homes and workplaces more energy-efficient, not chasing our addiction to oil.\And, as we’ve argued many times, the likelihood of South Carolina striking it rich is slim; the risks to tourism far outweigh the benefits; South Carolinians are opposed to offshore exploration; and there’s no onshore oil infrastructure or refining capacity to support what is now a nonexistent industry along most of the Atlantic Coast.

Even seismic testing presents enough risk to sea creatures, from plankton all the way up to endangered right whales, to take a pass. The government admits that about 3,000 sea mammals alone could be harmed.

Thanks only to the government shutdown, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has been unable to greenlight a handful of exploration companies that are anxious to start pummeling the water with potentially damaging sound waves from Maryland to Cape Canaveral, Fla.

And what about Florida’s supposed exemption? Well, it doesn’t look too real now with seismic testing set to begin.
By becoming the first GOP administration to join the nine-state legal fight, Gov. McMaster and Attorney General Wilson have shown that they are putting South Carolina first, as they should.

“We are bringing suit to protect the State’s economy and the rule of law,” Wilson tweeted.

“Although a number of coastal municipalities are parties to this suit, the Attorney General represents the interests of the entire state, including its agencies that could be affected by the seismic surveying and the general public,” he said in a statement.

It’s possible the mounting legal showdown could dissuade the president. At the state level, lawmakers have filed bills that would block onshore support for oil exploration. And the newly Democratic Congress, 1st District Rep. Joe Cunningham included, has introduced several bills that would halt or delay any drilling in the Atlantic. The governor and attorney general will bolster the what is now an all-out legal effort to stop oil exploration off the South Carolina coast.


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