A new study indicates that natural gas production off the shores of South Carolina would create more than 2200 jobs for the state, and could lower energy costs for Upstate manufacturers.
According to the study by the Southeast Energy Alliance, offshore energy production in South Carolina would generate $45 billion in federal, state and local government revenues, as well as $413 million in gross domestic product.
Low-country congressman Henry Brown says energy industry guru T. Boone Pickens led the way for the study. Brown says South Carolina could receive a $250 million annual royalty if granted a revenue-sharing program currently afforded to Gulf Coast states.
The Republican Representative says it’s time for energy independence. “We’re importing 70 percent of our energy needs from off shore now, and some of those countries don’t like us. Our balance is now are some 300 to 400 billion dollars a year. But we’ve got a tremendous supply right off the coast.”
The energy alliance wants the Palmetto State included in the federal government’s five-year plan for offshore drilling. The 90-day comment period put forth by the US Interior Secretary ends Monday.
Brown says the time for natural gas has come. “I feel that natural gas is that “best bridge” fuel to move us from petroleum to another base. It burns cleaner. And we have as much off the coast of South Carolina as we have in reserves in Saudi Arabia.”
Brown says natural gas drilling is safer than it was 30 or 40 years ago, and new technology makes the offshore rigs safe from hurricanes. “You can use natural gas in trucks, cars and buses, and in plants. And it’s a good substitute for coal. Plus it’s a good raw material to use in plastic, fertilizer, tires, and many other products we see everyday that you wouldn’t think were by-products of natural gas. And I don’t see any environmental downside to it.”
Hank McCullough, spokesman for Piedmont Natural Gas, acknowledged that gas produced off the coast might not stay in South Carolina. But he added that shipping gas further from it point of origin is less cost-effective, so local production could reduce costs for residents of the state.