Letters to the Editor

Drilling off S.C. coast a smart idea

To hear some people talk, you'd think that the economy and the environment are bitter enemies - that to protect one, you have to harm the other. In reality, however, the economy and the environment are usually loyal allies, each one prospering with the other.

Communities and countries with depressed economies are more likely to have distressed environments. Conversely, communities with strong economies have the resources necessary to protect and enhance their environments.

Nowhere is this truer than in Myrtle Beach and the entire Grand Strand region, where the environment - our beautiful beaches and our fish-filled coastal waters - constitute the basis of our economy and contribute mightily to the prosperity of the entire state. No one in South Carolina wants to risk spoiling those beaches or jeopardizing those fisheries - precisely because our economy and environment are so tightly intertwined.

But our economy is also dependent on access to an affordable source of energy - and that energy, now and for the foreseeable future, is oil.

We hear much talk about alternative forms of energy such as wind, solar, biofuel, etc., and I support research into any and all that show genuine promise in the marketplace. When any one of them offers a practical and affordable alternative to oil and natural gas, consumers will be happy to embrace it. In the meantime, however, there's nothing to be gained from demonizing the one energy source that fuels our economy and affords tourists the opportunity to travel to Myrtle Beach.

The Gulf Oil spill has, understandably, drawn our attention to the hazards of offshore drilling and prompted the Obama administration to push a moratorium. What we see in the aftermath of the spill, however, is that a lengthy moratorium may do more damage to the Gulf Coast economy than the spill itself.

Likewise, needlessly delaying and preventing access to domestic energy sources off the Atlantic Coast and elsewhere makes America more dependent on foreign oil. In the wake of the Gulf Oil spill, left-leaning interest groups in South Carolina are using the occasion to revive their longstanding opposition to natural gas exploration off our coast - an opportunity that could generate substantial state revenues and create good-paying jobs. Not to be outdone in the bad economic policy department, their ally Barack Obama is now pushing higher taxes on oil and gas - a job-killing idea if there ever was one. The good news is that our U.S. Sens. Jim DeMint and Lindsey Graham understand that a growing economy depends on affordable energy and have supported more drilling and not more higher energy taxes.

Certainly, we should strengthen safety standards and accelerate cleanup efforts and do all that we can to prevent an accident like the Gulf Oil spill from happening again. But let's recognize our economy and our environment for the allies they are. Let's not abandon a historically safe and affordable fuel that is vital to both, and to our national security. Let's put a moratorium on moratoria.

The writer, a Myrtle Beach City Council member, is on the Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Steering Committee for the National League of Cities.