Op Ed: Promoting American energy independence is a never-ending effort

  • Thursday, March 14, 2013

By Tom Marchant

Anyone who’s spent any significant amount of time trying to promote domestic petroleum exploration and production is likely to identify with the Greek mythological figure of Sisyphus. It was he whose exasperating fate was to roll a stone continually up a steep hill, only to have it roll down again just as he reached the top.

The Peanuts comic strip character Charlie Brown is a modern-day version of Sisyphus, forever foiled by Lucy as he tries again and again to kick the football she holds for him but always pulls away at the last moment.

As the chairman of the South Carolina Energy Forum, an all-of-the-above energy group that supports policies to expeditiously open up access to offshore energy reserves, energy security and economic security for the state and nation’s future, I can relate to Sisyphus and Charlie Brown in that the idea of increased domestic energy production is an ongoing process.

Knowing how extensive proven American petroleum reserves actually are, feeling certain that potential reserves are likely to be far more extensive, and being repeatedly thwarted as you try to persuade the relevant authorities to tap this vast wealth – this can be very frustrating. And yet, like Sisyphus and Charlie Brown, you feel a kind of compulsion and you know that you have to keep trying, always trying.

Gov. Nikki Haley hasn’t given up, God bless her. Our indomitable governor is trying again, and so should we.

Help is on the way.

Gov. Haley, along with North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, is leading the way on offshore drilling and the jobs and revenue it will produce. The three have signed a letter asking Interior Secretary-designate Sally Jewell to take a more proactive approach to energy development and embrace “policies that help create jobs and make energy more affordable.”

Haley and her two southern state colleagues are encouraging Secretary-designate Jewell to join them in “reforming offshore energy policy so that states can safely and prudently take advantage of abundant offshore resources.”

Gov. Haley’s desire for a new energy policy that creates high quality jobs in our states has bi-partisan support. Democratic Virginia Sen. Mark Warner and Sen. Tim Kaine have called for the expansion of offshore drilling. Warner was a sponsor — along with Kaine’s predecessor in the Senate, Democrat Jim Webb — of the 2012 Offshore Petroleum Expansion Now Act.

To find out how much oil the outer continental shelf holds, we’ll first have to do seismic mapping of the entire area. The estimates that we currently have are more than three decades old and were done with technologies that are now obsolete. New technologies could confirm those old estimates, but are likely to indicate far greater reserves. Surely we should know what we’re sitting on before we decide whether or not to tap it.

If production on the Atlantic outer continental shelf could generate tens of thousands of jobs — as Govs. Haley, McCrory, and McDonnell believe it could — we’d be foolish indeed not to pursue this opportunity at a time when our economy is so weak and so many of our citizens are out of work or underemployed. With President Obama starting a new term and a new team at Interior, this is exactly the right time for Gov. Nikki Haley to reach out to the administration and build a partnership that can lift our economy, while generating future revenues for infrastructure improvement.

Will President Obama’s new Interior Secretary help us roll our stone to the top of the hill or at least meet us halfway? Will she hold the ball in place and give us a chance to prove ourselves?

I devoutly hope she will, for an energy-rich, energy-independent America would be a blessing for all of our citizens.

Even if she doesn’t, we’ll keep trying, and trying — because we have to.

Tom Marchant formerly served in the state House of Representatives from Greenville and is the chairman of the South Carolina Energy Forum. He resides in Greenville and Pawleys Island.

Opinions that appear on this page in Letters to the Editor or in columns do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.

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