S.C. Statehouse Report
Sunday, Oct. 23, 2005
VIEW: http://www.statehousereport.com/columns/05.1023.drill.htm

COMMENTARY
Nip refinery and drilling in the bud
By Andy Brack
SC Statehouse Report

OCT. 23, 2005 - - Now is the time for South Carolinians to nip in the bud any idea to build an oil refinery in the state or drill for fuel off its coast.

Not only would a refinery or offshore drilling threaten the state's $15 billion tourism industry, but it could wreck South Carolina's environment. Imagine the effect on both if an Exxon Valdez-type spill seeped crude oil into the marshes and estuaries of our coast. Imagine how it would cripple the already struggling fishing industry.

Despite a federal ban on offshore drilling until 2012, energy lobbyists already are pushing for opportunities at the state level. S.C. Rep. Michael Thompson, R-Anderson, recently said he would pre-file legislation that would seek to explore the possibility of building a petrochemical refinery in South Carolina, perhaps in the Jasper County area. State Rep. Harry Cato, R-Greenville, in May got the state House to pass a resolution asking the Congress to let states decide on whether to drill for oil or natural gas.


REFINERY: Is this what we want South Carolina to look more like?

Fortunately other leaders, such as Gov. Mark Sanford and House Speaker Bobby Harrell, have said the state needed to look long-term at finding or developing alternative sources of energy, such as nuclear power and hydrogen fuel cells. U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., had a similar sentiment in September when he told the Greenville News, "If we're still using it [oil] as the basis of our economy 30 years from now, shame on us."

Yes, some of South Carolina's leaders are only talking about oil and gas possibilities here. But talk can lead to action. If they were to explore for oil or gas and find it, what would be the end game? Increased pressure to tap into the resource. Similarly, they may just "talk" about building a refinery, but eventually somebody would have a room full of studies, architectural drawings and information that might lure lawmakers into unwise long-term public policy decisions.

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The cost to South Carolina's quality of life would be too high. Drilling for fuel or building a refinery here would be the typical example of our state being penny-wise and pound-foolish - - looking for a short-term monetary gain that would have a long-term negative effect on the state. Look at other factors:

Low unemployment. One of the reasons some are calling for a refinery or drilling is they believe either would create jobs. But the areas a refinery logically could be located would be in areas near a port - - Georgetown, Charleston, Beaufort or Jasper counties, all of which have relatively low unemployment rates. In other words, they don't need an industrial polluter in the area just to get jobs.

Health. If anyone has ever driven through the dirty petrochemical refining area of Louisiana, they'll know impacts from refineries aren't good on human health. They don't call this area "Cancer Alley" for no reason.

Marine wildlife. A major leak could wipe out the state's precious shellfish population, a DHEC official told the Hilton Head Island Packet this week.

Alternatives. Instead of banking on a dwindling resource, the state ought to invest in alternatives that are a long-term solution to energy needs. Rather than continue a culture based on oil, the state and nation need to take responsibility and develop home-grown fuels, such as ethanol and biodiesel from grain, or look more deeply into hydrogen or nuclear power.

Just about the only good thing that could come from potential drilling or the possibility of a refinery being sited in South Carolina is that either would galvanize the environmental community in ways the state hasn't seen in more than 20 years. And that could cost some of the people their jobs in Columbia.

One of the beauties of South Carolina's coast is that it doesn't have industries stacked on top of each other. While any drilling or building of a refinery would be far off, let's hope lawmakers can keep the future in mind, and not mortgage it with something that could make us just like everybody else.

RECENT COMMENTARY

McLEMORE'S WORLD
10/23: Lottery lessons

Another great cartoon from Bill McLemore:


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FEEDBACK
10/21: More realistic estimate needed

To the editor:

As a member of the Beaufort County Board of Education, I have seen firsthand the impacts of technology in the classroom, most of which are positive and a few of which are at least marginal or uncertain if not downright negative. But, overall, I would tend to agree with and support the ideas you expressed in your article as published in today’s Beaufort Gazette (Commentary, 10/16).

However, I would offer one caution about your estimates of the cost you offered. They are vastly understated. You would be closer to the mark if you doubled all of the numbers, but even that would be misleading. What you fail to identify or estimate or talk about are the infrastructure costs (plant), the training costs for school personnel, the charges associated with connectivity (circuits), the on-going costs of maintaining fairly large and sophisticated LAN/WAN networks and, last but not least, you fail to estimate the maintenance costs that grow almost geometrically as a school district engages in all of the activities I just listed.

In other words, buying the laptops becomes, in the long run, the least expensive element of the equation.

Again, I do sympathize with and appreciate your enthusiasm for the idea itself, and I have no issue with the idea on a philosophical level. But if you propose to spend untold millions in tax money, you need to be a little more certain and a lot more detailed in your calculations. It’s just simple math, after all.

To fail to do so damages an idea that does have merit, and costs you credibility with your audience.

-- Rick Caporale, Hilton Head Island, S.C.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The original commentary included a general estimate for teacher training in the 12th and 13th paragraphs.

10/16: Laptops require 100 percent commitment

To the editor:

Just read your editorial (Commentary, 10/16). Although there is much promise in what you say, let me tell you what we have learned here in Hilton Head.

  • First, there is no middle ground.
  • You have to fully commit to this way of learning.
  • Everyone needs to have a laptop.
  • All teachers must be devoted to this program.
  • A curriculum needs to be built around laptop education.

    -- Colin Carrigan, Hilton Head Island, SC

10/16: Haven't kept up with technology

To the editor:

Wouldn't it be good if the rural schools in SC had computers and up-to-date textbooks? Our social progress has not kept up with technology.

-- Donna Crile, Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Recent feedback:


SOUTH CAROLINA SCORECARD

Here's a "thumbs up" and "thumbs down" related to various political events from the past week:

Thumbs up

Spartanburg delegation. It's good news that the county's legislative delegation recommended against building another landfill.

Thumbs down

Brown, Thompson. Thumbs down to First District GOP Congressman Henry Brown, who told the Chicago Tribune that he thought offshore drilling was fine for the SC coast. He should stick his head back in the sand. Similar sentiments to S.C. Rep. Michael Thompson, R-Anderson, for proposing a new refinery in the state.

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