A recent editorial (“Consider the risk of offshore drilling”) in The Herald questioned the merits of allowing offshore drilling along the South Carolina coast. As a coastal resident and president of the organization charged with promoting our state’s largest tourism destination, I take any potential threat to our tourism industry very seriously. Nevertheless, I support a sensible approach to offshore drilling and so do most of the businesses I represent. We believe our state's tourism industry and offshore energy exploration can effectively co-exist, benefiting our state for many decades to come.
Your editorial suggests it would be "naive" to ignore the possibility of a disaster like that which occurred in the Gulf of Mexico. I agree. Thankfully, our state's leaders are not naive. They have employed some of the best and brightest minds in science and energy development to evaluate the prospects of offshore energy exploration. I served on the state's 2007-08 offshore energy development study committee and we took a very balanced, studious approach to considering all aspects of this opportunity.
The legislation proposed by U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-SC, known as the “Southern Energy Access Jobs Act,” does not allow drilling into our coastline with blind disregard for the environment. Rather, Sen. Scott’s legislation takes a measured approach to exploring and identifying what resources lie off our coast and approximately how much exists. This legislation also affords coastal communities a buffer of protection against permanent infrastructure equipment.
One unique aspect of Sen. Scott's legislation is the partnership created with universities, including Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), to encourage a new generation of scientists. It also aims to help veterans find jobs and transition back into society.
Your editorial also noted the abundance of U.S. natural gas, which, thanks to increased production, the U.S. will soon become a natural gas net exporter. This natural gas revolution is precisely why we need to gather more scientific data and explore for resources off the Atlantic coast.
As a nation, for too long we have not considered the long-term prospects of our current energy resources. Allowing new energy production off our coast will lessen our dependence upon foreign nations. The more energy resources we produce, whether it is coal, oil or natural gas, the more we can export, which positively impacts our trade balance and can be used as a foreign policy tool in geopolitical crises, strengthening our national security.
America can, and should, become energy independent. Today, we are too dependent upon foreign nations for our energy supplies. The tourism industry understands this, as the slightest change in energy prices can have a detrimental impact on our visitors’ willingness to travel here. Establishing our own energy sources will be helpful in creating jobs and sustaining our state’s tourism industry.
Sen. Scott has represented the coast of South Carolina throughout his career in public service, and like me, he fully understands the importance of tourism to our economy. But he also understands the importance of creating jobs and ensuring America becomes energy-independent.
While we appreciate non-coastal communities expressing a cautious attitude about potentially harmful impacts on our state’s tourism industry, we believe Senator Scott’s proposed legislation will create jobs and grow our economy while providing adequate protections for our coastal communities.
Brad Dean is president and CEO of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce.