Senator Lindsey Graham–taxes and energy

I met with two of South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham’s staffers yesterday to talk about taxes and revenue issues.  Some of the conversation was about the Senator’s recent remarks that increased revenue needed to be on the table in negotiations with Senator Democrats regarding the budget and debt. 

Senator Graham’s willingness to step outside the GOP talking points to actually try to solve problems is always a source of hope for many in South Carolina.  But the Graham staff knows that it also generates a lot of negative feedback from the “no compromise” conservative voters back home.

And that is exactly what the staff expected after Senator Graham’s comments on being open to increased revenue for the federal budget. 

But apparently it didn’t happen this time, at least not at the D.C. office.  Surprisingly, I was told, the calls were somewhat supportive.  However Grover Norquist, father of the anti-tax pledge, does have an upcoming meeting with the Senator. 

At my meeting I also suggested that Senator Graham put as much effort on pursuing wind, solar and bio-mass energy as he is on offshore drilling for oil.  On Monday of this week, Senator Graham, Governor Haley, and Representatives Jeff Duncan and Joe Wilson held a press conference in Columbia to announce new federal legislation to promote offshore drilling for oil and gas.

My friend, Harry Miley produced an economic impact study claiming that opening ocean drilling beyond 10 miles of the coast would create 7,485 jobs for the state.  But most of these jobs would not be directly in the oil business.  They are labeled “Indirect Effect” and “Induced Effect” jobs.  Plus we’d have to wait until 2030 (2030???) to see them all.  Of course, the projections are totally based on the assumption that oil companies actually want to explore the waters off the coast of South Carolina.  There is no evidence of any such interest.

What we should be asking ourselves is what would be the economic impact if instead of oil and gas the state made a big push for developing wind farms off our coast and building the infrastructure needed to get the electricity into the grid.  I am willing to bet that the economic impact of such an effort would far out perform drilling for oil and gas with none of potential negative impact to tourism.

That was the essence of my statement given to the media at the Monday press conference.  The Associated Press story by Susanne Schafer (below), who used my comments, was picked up by CNBC, CBSand Bloomberg Business Week. 

It is time for all the politicians who say they are for an “all of the above” strategy for our energy independence to actually start making concrete proposals for alternative, renewable energy.  Simply saying they support innovative energy is no longer acceptable.


Haley, Graham, Duncan promote offshore drilling

By SUSANNE M. SCHAFER – Associated Press
June 12, 2012

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Three top South Carolina Republicans came together Monday to support federal legislation that would allow drilling of gas and oil off South Carolina’s coast, arguing the state’s need for jobs and income outweigh potential problems.

“There is a risk in everything you do, but the biggest risk is to do nothing,” said U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham. He said his plan would protect the environment and bar drilling in a 10-mile buffer zone off the coast.

The governor and the S.C. Legislature would determine whether oil and gas exploration could occur within the next 10-to-50 mile stretch, while all areas 50 to 100 miles offshore would be open to drilling leases, Graham said.

Gov. Nikki Haley and U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan joined Graham at a news conference, where all said they hope the legislation in the U.S. Senate would lead the nation to energy independence and bring thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in revenue to state and federal coffers. Graham was introducing it in the Senate Monday.

“Offshore drilling is where we need to be,” said Haley. “This will bring so many more jobs.”

The state’s jobless rate was 8.8 percent in April.

Haley said those who might protest against such drilling have valid concerns, but, she added, “We’re not compromising tourism to do this.”

Duncan said he plans to introduce similar legislation in the House. “This legislation will help our state lead the way in energy innovation,” said the congressman from Laurens.

Graham faulted President Barack Obama’s administration for standing in the way of oil and gas exploration, and said the situation could change with the November elections.

“If Gov. (Mitt) Romney becomes President Romney, this will happen,” Graham said. Virginia was slated to be the first state on the East Coast to offer oil and gas drilling, but that plan was shelved by the Obama administration last year after the massive 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

In recent weeks, the federal government has been holding hearings along the Atlantic Coast to gather opinions and discuss the potential environmental impact of offshore drilling.

Representatives of the several business groups such as the state Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce and the Palmetto Agribusiness Council also attended the session to show their support for Graham’s plan. The Council released a study done for them by a local consulting firm which said an offshore drilling industry could spawn 7,500 jobs by 2030 and about $87.5 million annually in sales, income and royalty taxes.

South Carolina tourism is a $15 billion industry, and the latest figures for 2010 showed that 1 in 10 jobs, or more than 170,000, are tied to tourism. The industry also produces about $1.2 billion in state and local tax revenue.

Environmental groups have argued that alternative fuel choices are preferable to offshore drilling.

Frank Knapp, Jr., president of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce and vice chairman of the American Sustainable Business Council, said in a statement released Monday that a comprehensive energy plan would be preferable to seeking fossil fuels offshore.

“It is important for our elected officials not to settle for a few jobs for South Carolina associated with drilling, digging or piping when thousands of good jobs are waiting to be created in the areas of wind, solar and bio fuels,” Knapp said.

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