Re July 10 letter, “A prosperous future for South Carolina lies offshore,” by William Schachte and William Crowther.
That piece paints a rosy picture of the benefits of offshore oil drilling in the Atlantic and the benefits that South Carolina will reap. When looked at carefully, however, their arguments begin to crumble like a sand castle in the approaching tide.
They state that critic’s claims that offshore drilling will harm tourism and endanger wildlife are baseless. According to the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, from 1964 through 2014, oil wells operating on the outer continental shelf of the United Stated have spilled almost 25 million gallons of oil.
When the BSEE report was published, the size of the Deepwater Horizon spill had not been determined but is now estimated at 210 million gallons. At the Taylor Energy MC-20 well site in the Gulf of Mexico, 25 of 28 wells were damaged by hurricane Ivan in 2004 and those wells continue to leak oil today - with no solution to cap them yet.
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If the basis for these claims are the recent oils spill in Santa Barbara, California or the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico that ended up causing billions of dollars in damage, the loss of tourism dollars, countless wildlife deaths, and has been called the worst man-made disaster in US history, I would have to ask the authors what planet have you been living on to call these claims baseless?
Oh, I forgot. The oil industry pays you to make these statements.
The authors state that according to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the outer continental shelf contains more than 4.7 billion barrels of oil. The United States consumes more than that amount in one year. How can they claim that this oil will foster such great economic benefit to South Carolina when the oil would be used up so quickly? No more oil, no more jobs. And no manufacturer of oil field equipment would set up facilities in an area that would run dry so soon.
They claim that our tourism revenue has increased as a result of lower gasoline prices and that drilling for more oil off our coast will keep those prices down. If, however, a massive oil spill were to occur and our beaches were covered in black slime and the air smelled like burning rubber - as it did over the Memorial Day weekend this year in Santa Barbara - gasoline could be free and no one would come.
Mr. Schachte and Crowther say that because the oil rigs would be 50 miles off our coast, our beaches and wetlands would be safe from harm. Tell that to the Gulf States. The Deepwater Horizon oil rig that caused one of the worst oil spills in history in 2010 was 45 miles offshore.
But, they say, heightened safety measures will make drilling safer than ever. Most of those safety measure were already in place at the time of the Deepwater Horizon spill. That spill, according to the federal judge who ruled on the $18 billion settlement against British Petroleum, was caused by “willful misconduct” and “gross negligence.” No amount of safety measures can make up for gross negligence.
While it is true that South Carolina’s governor and some other state politicians do not oppose offshore drilling, I will paraphrase Upton Sinclair:
“It is difficult to get politicians to understand - when the donations for their next political campaign depend on their not understanding.”
The writer lives in North Litchfield Beach.