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Opposing offshore drilling should not be conditional | Opinion

Coastal voters strongly want to protect our shore from offshore oil drilling and the inevitable spills and leaks that would devastate our marine life and coastal tourism, commercial fishing and recreation economies.

Opposing drilling in the Atlantic is now a prerequisite for a politician to be elected to represent the South Carolina coast.

However, voters need to understand that not all opposition to offshore drilling is the same. It can be either “unconditional” or “conditional.”

South Carolina Lowcountry Congressman Joe Cunningham is a lead “unconditional” opponent. He sponsored a bill that recently passed the U.S. House. If the bill becomes law, it would permanently ban drilling for oil not only off the shore of South Carolina, but along the entire Atlantic Coast.

Unfortunately, most of our other state Congressmen, and some running for the U.S. House, claim to oppose offshore drilling but either did not or will not support Cunningham’s permanent Atlantic-ban legislation.

They are “conditional” opponents.

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One argument by the “conditional” opponents goes like this. The federal government shouldn’t ban offshore drilling in all the Atlantic because each state should make that decision for its own coast. South Carolina might want to ban drilling, but Georgia should be able to give its approval.

The other argument by the “conditional” opponents says that a ban on offshore drilling in the Atlantic should not be permanent because one day the country might need the oil.

Let’s look at these arguments.

Saying that each of the Atlantic Coast states should decide whether to allow drilling for oil off their shores might be fine if the decisions only impacted their states.

However, we only need to look at the worst environmental oil disaster in our nation’s history to see the fallacy of this argument.

The Deepwater Horizon oil rig and well were located off the coast of Louisiana. The explosion and blow-out released about 171 million gallons of oil in the Gulf of Mexico.

The oil coated more than 1,100 miles of the Gulf Coast from Louisiana to Florida. More than 16% of the oil reaching the Gulf shore was on the western coast of Florida, a state overwhelmingly opposed to drilling off its coast.

That was almost 10 years ago. Today, we have Brazil.

Last month an oil spill covered over 932 miles of that country’s northeast coast. As reported by Reuters, oil was “polluting some of the postcard beaches in one of the nation’s top touristic destinations.”

Brazil insists that the spill wasn’t from drilling in its waters and possibly came from a passing oil tanker, the type of crude transportation that would be associated with offshore drilling in the Atlantic.

These examples make clear that the “conditional” opponents wanting to give states the ability to approve drilling off their coasts will result in oil disasters for all neighboring states.

Then there is the concern that a permanent ban on offshore drilling in the Atlantic might stop our country from addressing an energy crisis in the future (i.e., we might need more gas for vehicles).

The fact is that the United States and many countries are rapidly moving to hybrid, hybrid plug-ins and all-electric vehicles. General Motors has committed to an all-electric future. France, Great Britain, India, China, Norway and the Netherlands plan on banning the sale of gas and diesel cars within a couple decades.

Those arguing against a permanent offshore drilling ban, fearing a future oil need, are simply living in the past.

Coastal voters should know that “conditional” opponents of offshore drilling are not only wrong, they are also giving Big Oil encouragement to keep pushing for drilling in the Atlantic.

Frank Knapp Jr. is president and CEO of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce based in Columbia.

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