Offshore Energy

Today the LA Times reported that Virginia could become the first state on the Eastern Seaboard to open it's coast to offshore drilling. Republican Governor Robert McDonnell and a bipartisan coalition in the state legislature hopes that the Obama administration will permit the sale of drilling leases at the end of the year. Its time to face one fact though, the projected amount of oil off the coast is around 130 million barrels. In the U.S. alone, we consume 20 million barrels each day so if we do the math, the oil off the coast could supply us for only 7 days! That's just not a logical investment.

The Virginia Legislature should instead be focusing on harnessing wind power. Last year UNC-CH prepared a report for the N.C. General Assembly outlining the potential energy that wind could produce for our state. The report said, that if we built a wind farm consisting of 450 offshore turbines we would generate 5.7 million megawatt hours of electricity each year, that would offset the emissions of nearly 9 million cars. Three weeks ago the N.C. Energy Policy Council heard a report by Paul Quinline from the N.C. Sustainable Energy Association. Mr. Quinline showed that the development of wind farms in 15% of the identified offshore regions could supply 20% of North Carolina's power needs.

Although there are still significant hurdles to overcome, states should not be making poor investments that are sure to harm the environment. As the Southern Environmental Law Center pointed out a spill along the eastern coast could affect shores from Cape Cod to South Carolina. We hope that North Carolina heeds this warning and does not follow the potential lead of Virginia.


Sometimes you have to wonder

This is really about money, in my view. In that article, the sponsor of the effort to drill offshore said "there is a potential bank account out there". Sometimes you have to wonder just how much we are going to be willing to risk because of poor economic conditions in the U.S. and because of a lack of money to fund so much of what government is being asked to do today.

So much effort is being made and so much progress is being seen on both the wind and solar energy fronts to have all that technology go by the wayside all because of a fall in our economic plight of the day. I am unsure how the Sierra Club feels about nuclear, but I believe it is something we should not just dismiss based on politics or because some of the inherent problems with it seem too difficult to overcome.