Atlantic Oil and Gas Development Risks Healthy Ocean Ecosystems, Fishery and Tourism Jobs, While Offshore Wind Does Not

 January 14, 2015                                                                          

Beaufort, SC —Oceana released a new report today that finds offshore wind would produce over three times more jobs and nearly nine times as much energy as offshore drilling off South Carolina’s Atlantic coast. The report, titled Offshore Energy by the Numbers, An Economic Analysis of Offshore Drilling and Wind Energy in the Atlantic, challenges recent claims by the oil and gas industry that opening the East Coast to offshore drilling will lead the United States to energy independence, generate millions of dollars in revenue for states and create thousands of jobs in the process. Oceana’s analysis instead finds that the benefits projected by the industry appear to be exaggerated due to the inclusion of oil and gas resources that are not economically recoverable, thereby inflating the potential benefits. Industry estimates also rely upon an assumption of a state revenue-sharing system that does not exist.

“Offshore wind power in South Carolina has the potential to generate more jobs, produce more power, and lead to a higher degree of energy independence from foreign sources than drilling for oil and gas does,” said Samantha Siegel, South Carolina organizer for Oceana’s climate and energy campaign. “South Carolinians deserve to know the truth when it comes to expanding this dirty and dangerous practice to our coast, and what alternatives there are for clean energy.”

Oceana’s report also finds that offshore oil and gas development off the East Coast of South Carolina could put at risk some of the roughly 79,000 jobs and about $4.4 billion in gross domestic product that rely on the state’s healthy ocean ecosystems, mainly through fishing, tourism and recreation. In fact, Oceana says the threats of offshore drilling would begin far before a rig is ever put in the water. In July, the Obama administration announced its decision to consider proposals for the use of seismic airguns that make dynamite-like blasts to search for oil and gas deposits deep below the ocean floor in an area twice the size of California, stretching from Delaware to Florida.

“28 coastal communities on the East Coast, including Edisto Beach, have already passed resolutions saying no to seismic airguns,” said Siegel. “Seismic airgun blasting in the Atlantic could harm fish populations and, according to the government’s own estimates, could injure as many as 138,000 marine mammals, like whales and dolphins, and disrupt the vital activities of as many as 13.5 million more.”

Some of the report’s other key findings about South Carolina include:

  • A modest and gradual development of offshore wind could create about 21,000 additional jobs, or a 161 percent increase over the jobs created by offshore oil and gas drilling over the project lifetime.
  • If the economically recoverable portion of these fossil fuel resources located offshore South Carolina were extracted and used this year, the region would be able to meet the demand for both oil and gas for six days, at current consumption rates.
  • Offshore oil and gas would not even be produced until 2026 at the earliest based on the industry’s own projections.
  • It would take only six years of offshore wind production to generate more energy than that contained in all of the economically recoverable offshore oil and gas.

Oceana and community members held an event in Beaufort today to discuss the report’s findings.

Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling headlined the event, remarking, “If there was an oil spill or if there was an impact, it could affect the quality of life that so many of us appreciate here.”

“Going after the pittance of oil and gas resources predicted to be found off the South Carolina coast is not worth the risk to our state’s quality of life, natural resources, or tourism and fishing industries. Charting a path towards a clean energy future is in the best interest of our economy and environment,” said Hamilton Davis, Energy and Climate Director for the Coastal Conservation League.

“Offshore drilling is simply not worth the risks to South Carolina’s coast. We’d like to see clean energy jobs from offshore wind, an energy source that does not endanger our special places like Hunting Island or Edisto Beach,” added Alan Hancock, Program Director for the South Carolina League of Conservation Voters.

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