Let's Talk About: Off-Shore Drilling
Growing up outside of Cleveland, Ohio, I never thought for more than 2 seconds about off-shore drilling. I was too busy dodging tornados and hoping our city didn't burn down after (insert any local sports team) failed to come close to making the playoffs, let alone win a championship. Now that we live in Beaufort County, I can understand why off-shore drilling is such a big deal.
Like many of you, a large chunk of my livelihood comes from tourism. I began my South Carolina obsession by waiting tables during the summers while in college. My first retail business was down in Coligny Plaza. I owe the area's tourism for everything I have. Without the steady and predictable flow of tourists every summer, there is no way my business would have gotten off the ground.
It's no secret that without tourism, or even a significant decrease in tourism, our area would be crippled. Maybe cripple isn't a strong enough word. Annihilated. Yeah, let's go with annihilated. Not only would tourist related retail shops go under, but so would many, if not most, of the over 250 restaurants on Hilton Head Island alone. Oh yeah, and the thousands of jobs and tax revenue that go along with it. And don't think for a minute that Bluffton is safe. If there were a catastrophic oil spill that destroyed Hilton Head beaches, property values would plummet. Cheap houses on Hilton Head? Sorry Bluffton and Beaufort, but your homes just took a huge hit as well.
This isn't fear mongering. This is reality. Even considering the prospect of allowing off-shore drilling, and the risks that go along with it, is incredibly foolish. The tourism industry in South Carolina accounts for over $22 BILLION dollars in annual revenue. I understand people's desire to potentially bring in a lot of jobs and additional revenue by drilling, but that is a substantial risk to take. And frankly, if our leadership can't think of better ways to bring in jobs and additional revenues, well, they're just being lazy and not thinking outside the box. We can have a stronger economy, add jobs, and increase wages WITHOUT having to drill.
"But we need more domestic oil so we are less reliant on foreign oil out of the Middle East!" There is a lot truth to this. We do need to be less reliant on foreign oil. But how about this: instead of looking for a Band-Aid solution, how about we try focusing on what the solution will be in 30 years, and start, oh I don't know, NOW! Renewable energy isn't just some hippie, feel-good movement. Renewables such as solar power are economically sound. In fact, the industry is booming! How about we focus on bringing renewable energy and the companies that produce it to our state? That means a cleaner environment, an increase in skilled high-tech jobs, and jobs for installers and other laborers. No, it will probably not be as much immediate revenue as drilling for oil. BUT, it will position our state for success for decades to come. Working to bring in renewable energy and renewable businesses would be a generational accomplishment.