Monday, May 31, 2010

South Carolina Politics Favors Offshore Drilling

 - Associated Press Writer

The four Republicans running for governor of South Carolina support drilling for natural gas off South Carolina's shores and pushing the federal government to remove nuclear waste from the state. But they have different views on the type of oil exploration that has led to the massive Gulf oil spill.
The candidates in the June 8 primary offered their thoughts on energy policy during a series of interviews with The Associated Press. Three Democrats are running for their party's nomination.
Four-term U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett, two-term Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, three-term state Rep. Nikki Haley and two-term Attorney General Henry McMaster all say natural gas reserves off South Carolina's coast could be an economic boon to the state and help the country become energy independent.
Barrett predicts tapping into natural gas would create thousands of jobs and perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars in royalties. He proposes putting 70 percent of that revenue toward infrastructure, 20 percent to law enforcement and 10 percent into renewable energies.
Some experts doubt that commercially feasible oil exists off South Carolina's coast, but three candidates want to explore, provided safeguards are in place. Haley compared the flow of crude in the Gulf of Mexico - what's become the worst oil spill in U.S. history - to a plane crash.
"We don't stop all the planes from flying. What we do is we look at that accident, we learn from it and say, 'What do we need to do to make sure that it doesn't happen again?' That's the same thing here," said Haley, 38, of Lexington.
Bauer said the $75 million federal cap on oil spill liability, beyond direct cleanup costs, must be lifted to prompt companies to use the latest technology and equipment.
But McMaster had more reservations, saying it may be impossible to ensure oil drilling can be done without a spill.
"If we mess up this coastline, we'll never get it back," he said. "Then we have ruined ourselves for the future because that's part of the economic engine."
Barrett, Bauer and McMaster said outright that any drilling rigs must be far enough off shore to be out of sight from land. Barrett said no structures within 20 miles of the coast. Haley said she'd study the rigs' effects on the environment and tourism before deciding.
The candidates take a let's-try-everything approach to energy.
Bauer said he likes the idea of increasing business at South Carolina ports by offering container ships breaks on the cost of biodiesel produced by in-state farmers. And he said he would work with legislators to eliminate corporate taxes for companies deemed green, whether in research and development or energy production.
"If we want to be known as a state that brings high-dollar jobs in, let's come up with a totally green pitch to the world: You come to South Carolina; you pay zip in corporate taxes," said Bauer, 41, of Greer.
All four champion the expansion of nuclear energy, both for job creation and as a clean energy solution. They support promoting other alternative energy sources, such as solar, wind and hydrogen, but say only nuclear currently offers substantial energy output.
"Nuclear power is essential. Right now, it's the answer and will be for many, many years," said McMaster, 63, of Columbia. "Nuclear power is clean and green. We understand it in this state. It's efficient."
The Republicans believe plans for Yucca Mountain, a project 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas, must get back on track so highly radioactive nuclear waste isn't permanently stored in South Carolina. The Obama administration wants to halt plans to open the nuclear repository. South Carolina and Washington state are suing to prevent the federal government from killing the project.
"I think ultimately we're going to prevail," McMaster said, noting that South Carolina's power plants have contributed more than $1 billion to the repository over nearly 30 years. "But if we don't, that will have an impact all across the country on nuclear power, because people will wonder where it's going to go."
Regardless, GOP candidates said, uncertainty on Yucca Mountain should not sidetrack nuclear energy.
But even with that repository, spent nuclear fuel rods should be recycled at the Savannah River Site for power plants, said Barrett, whose district includes the Department of Energy facility near Aiken.
"If we don't continue down the recycling venue, then Yucca Mountain is literally full before it's open," said Barrett, 49, of Westminster. "Everything we've got stored right now will fill up Yucca Mountain."

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1 comment:

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