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OIL JOBS ARE ESTIMATES. OUR JOBS ARE REAL.
If offshore drilling is the solution to NC’s economic problems, then we’ve got bigger problems —
AND A FEW SERIOUS QUESTIONS:
QUESTION 1: ARE THE TEMPORARY JOBS AND REVENUES FROM OFFSHORE DRILLING REALLY WORTH TANKING THE REST OF OUR COASTAL ECONOMY?
On April 24, President Trump signed an executive order to restart the federal process to pursue offshore drilling in the Atlantic, saying it would lead to “potentially thousands and thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in wealth.” The numbers tell a different story — petroleum exploration risks more NC jobs and revenue than it stands to produce.
According to a 2013 study by North Carolina State University “Over a seven-year build up period, offshore drilling would generate $181 million in income annually, of which $11 million would be public revenues. In addition, 1,122 jobs would be created. After the seven-year build up period, offshore drilling would generate $1.9 billion in income annually, of which $116 million would be public revenue. This income and revenue generation would occur over a 30-year- period, during which 16,910 jobs would be created.”
Sounds impressive — until you compare those estimated figures to coastal tourism’s proven contribution to North Carolina’s coffers. According to the commerce department, visitation to NC’s eight coastal counties in 2015 alone directly employed nearly twice as many people (28,000 jobs) and generated 50% more money ($2.9 billion)— and more than twice the public revenue — with $138.44 million in state taxes and $141.44 million in local taxes. Those numbers don’t even factor in coastal home values or construction jobs, teacher salaries, and government services — or any of the other secondary revenue streams that rely on a healthy coastline — or the ripple effects of coastal tourism on inland businesses. All of these jobs and revenues would be on the line due to the negative impacts of offshore oil drilling, from degraded coastal views to declining interest in tourism to the decimation of the coast in the event of an oil spill.
People like to say the Deepwater Horizon was a fluke, but it’s really the worst example of a longer pattern of problems associated with offshore drilling. Just eight months prior to America’s worst environmental disaster Australia suffered a similar catastrophe using the same technology — one that dumped an estimated 132,000 gallons of oil a day into the East Timor Sea for 74 days. Domestically, Coast Guard data shows 479 offshore accidents in the Northern Gulf in 2016 for a total of almost 18,000 gallons of oil and other pollutants. (And those are just the ones that are reported.) And the U.S. Department of the Interior also estimates that every three to four years, a spill of at least 10,000 barrels is expected to occur, such as when Hurricane Katrina whipped through the Gulf of Mexico, destroying over 100 platforms and causing the largest oil spill in the U.S. since the ExxonValdez (until the Deepwater Horizon disaster). Not the most comforting news when you consider North Carolina is home to frequent storms — both hurricanes and nor’easters.
But it doesn’t take a storm or blowout to cause an accident. Just give it time, and something will start leaking such as Santa Barbara’s 2015 spill, which sent 143,000 gallons of oil into the sea due to lack of oversight. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. For all the cries of “safer standards,” the sad fact is that, in the seven years since the Deepwater Horizon, the industry has yet to implement a single new rule or guideline.
ANSWER: Oil drilling is an inherently risky business. No matter how you crunch the numbers, it’s not a question of if we’ll see a spill off North Carolina, but when. And when we do have a spill, the health of our coast and economy will be on the line.
QUESTION 3: IF THE OIL INDUSTRY WANTS TO HELP COASTAL RESIDENTS’ POCKETBOOKS, WHY DO THEY ALWAYS FIGHT PAYING FOR THEIR MISTAKES?
In the wake of 1989’s Valdez accident, Exxon spent 19 years in court battling claims — ultimately getting their fines reduced from $5 billion to $500 million — meaning Alaska’s victims waited two decades to receive a paltry $30,000 in damages for suffering the nation’s second worst environmental catastrophe. Likewise, BP spent years fighting Deepwater Horizon claims before finally losing their final appeal in 2014, at which point lawyers moved to limit the amount, “asking a federal judge to cap the amount of Gulf oil spill-related fines it must pay at $12 billion,” which is almost a third less than the amount U.S. prosecutors were seeking from the company. As of late 2016, they there were still thousands of unpaid claims. (And at least 141,648 denials.)
ANSWER: The Oil Industry is not a benevolent enterprise. It is a business and seeks to maximize its profits and minimize its losses.
QUESTION 4: IF PETROLEUM REPRESENTS A MORE RELIABLE INDUSTRY, WHY IS OIL TANKING — AND TOURISM KEEPS BOOMING?
As of mid-May 2017, the price of oil had plummeted to less than $50 to a barrel. Rosiest estimates show it reaching a paltry $70 per barrel by year’s end. That may be great for consumers but it’s bad for the petroleum industry and the states that depend on drilling revenues. In Louisiana, “for every dollar the price of oil drops, the state loses $10 million to $12 million. In Texas, ten percent of jobs are in oil and gas. Low oil prices could mean 30,000 of those jobs could go away.”
Meanwhile, NC’s coastal tourism industry shows tank-like resilience. With the exception of 2009’s economic downturn, our coastal counties’ travel expenditures have consistently grown since 1991 — with an average 5% increase annually. And on a national level, a recent study conducted by the National Ocean Economics Program shows America’s “ocean economy” (specifically focusing on tourism and recreation) contributes three times the amount of money to the U.S. economy, compared to offshore oil production.
ANSWER: Oil is a finite resource and exists in a volatile market. As long as we protect our coasts, tourism will remain a sustainable, growing industry into the future.
Perhaps — perhaps — if the potential reserves waiting offshore would make the US energy independent, one could claim it’s a necessary sacrifice for the good of our nation. But, they won’t. While the administration claims drilling in the Atlantic would make America “far more energy independent” government estimates say only 229 days of oil and 562 days of gas lie offshore based on 2030 consumption rates, when fuel would be available to consumers. (That doesn’t factor in a March executive order to roll back fuel economy standards.)
Fortunately, DOI Secretary Ryan Zinke’s been a staunch proponent of wind power, which — according to a 2015 report by Oceana — “would produce twice the number of jobs and twice the amount of energy as offshore drilling in the Atlantic Ocean.” Furthermore, North Carolina boasts more wind potential than any other state: “In 20 years, offshore wind would generate the equivalent of over half a billion barrels of oil more than all of North Carolina’s economically recoverable oil and gas” while creating “more than 48,000 jobs —25,000 more jobs than would be created by offshore oil and gas drilling over the project lifetime.” And even the worst wind accident will never shut down coastal tourism.
ANSWER: If more jobs and more energy is the goal, wind makes more sense — with no risk to existing industries.
QUESTION 6: IF THE ADMINISTRATION IS REALLY ABOUT LIMITING “BIG GOVERNMENT,” THEN WHY WON’T THEY LISTEN TO COASTAL COMMUNITIES’ CONCERNS?
For an administration that makes a big deal about fighting “federal overreach” — at least when it comes to the environment or education — they don’t seem to hear local communities when it comes to offshore energy. As of May 2017, a total of 32 North Carolina counties and municipalities had passed resolutions opposing offshore drilling, seismic testing or both. (So have business-minded entities such as the Outer Banks Visitors’ Bureau and Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce.) Furthermore, the number opposed municipalities from New Jersey to Florida was 124. Meanwhile, the Business Alliance for Protecting the Atlantic Coast (BAPAC) represents over 41,000 businesses and 500,200 commercial fishing families from Maine to Florida. All saying the same thing: Not here. Not now. Not ever.
ANSWER: They don’t want to hear it.
Imagine you’ve got a thriving $3 billion company with an 80-year history. One that stands to grow each year and employ thousands of coastal residents for generations to come — all while generating millions in tax revenue for the state as a whole. Would you start a much riskier venture for a fraction of the revenue, knowing it could shut your existing business down at any time? Now imagine your government — people elected to represent your best interest — was considering risking more jobs and tax revenue to bring in an outside industry with no a track record of making mistakes and avoiding making reparations. What would you do?
ANSWER: As a citizen, it is your business decision.
There are ways to create jobs, revenue and energy in North Carolina. But offshore drilling is Not the Answer.
SPEAK OUT NOW!
Call the White House (202-456-1111) and Department of Interior (202-208- 3100) and ask President Trump and Secretary Zinke not to risk NC’s proven, more profitable coastal tourism industry in a risky pursuit for offshore petroleum.
Call Governor Roy Cooper’s office at 919-814-2000 and tell him you value the jobs and revenue our precious coastline already produces.
Then call your state senators and representatives and tell them, there are ways to create jobs, revenue and energy in North Carolina. But offshore drilling is Not the Answer.
FULL LIST OF CONTACTS
Read on for a list of federal and coastal NC decision-makers. Phone calls often work best, but a personal, well-spoken email is also effective.
President Donald J. Trump: https://www.whitehouse.gov/contact
Ryan Zinke, Secretary of the Dept. of Interior: https://www.doi.gov/contact-us
Gov. Roy Cooper: https://governor.nc.gov/contact-governor-cooper
Congressman Walter B. Jones: https://jones.house.gov/contact-me
Congressman David Rouzer: https://rouzer.house.gov/contact
Senator Richard Burr: https://www.burr.senate.gov/contact/email
Senator Thom Tillis: https://www.tillis.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/contact