Over the years as I was growing up, my family spent many wonderful weeks at Fripp Island. We watched it develop from an uninhabited island to one of the great treasures of our coastline. Its clean beauty never failed to mesmerize me.
As I see the devastating effects of the BP Gulf oil disaster, I cringe at the possibility of tar balls rolling up on the shores of our beautiful beaches.
When we continue depending on oil and remaining on the path to possible drilling off of the East Coast, we are putting one of South Carolina’s greatest natural resource, our beaches, at risk.
The answer is energy independence. Being “free” of oil would not only protect the beauty of our places, it would also help our national security and our state’s economy.
Obviously, our tourism industry depends on how we protect our natural assets. And, that impact is huge.
According to the Palmetto Institute, “Last year (2006), the tourism industry contributed $16.7 billion to the state’s direct and indirect revenues. It employs more than 200,000 people – approximately 10 percent of South Carolina’s workforce.”
However, tourism isn’t the only reason for energy independence: National security also relies on our ability to embrace renewable energy solutions.
Having been a pilot in the Air Force, I am aware of the risk to our national security as we continue to be dependent on foreign oil. We must pursue the use of next generation biofuels to power our aircraft, tanks, Humvees, jeeps and trucks.
South Carolina, with its historic agricultural expertise, has the potential to lead in biofuel technology and production.
But we have an even stronger resource in our District: Our nuclear expertise and facilities. Anchored on the northern end by the Oconee Nuclear Station and on the southern end by the Savannah River Site (SRS), we have the potential to be a real leader in nuclear energy development.
“Oconee has safely and reliably generated more than 500 million megawatt-hours of electricity—the first nuclear station in the United States to achieve this milestone.” (Per Duke Energy)
SRS has the potential for still another valuable aspect of nuclear power, that is, turning surplus plutonium into fuel for commercial nuclear power generation. Already under construction, this Mixed Oxide Fuel facility not only creates usable fuel, but also “is part of the nation’s effort to make sure plutonium can no longer be used for nuclear weapons.”
South Carolina can lead the country in nuclear technology and with this achievement, create good jobs for its citizens.
There’s even more we can do by working together.
Take this example. Toledo, Ohio is embracing solar production. A unique collaboration between its research university, technical schools, economic development teams, community leaders and government officials has put Toledo on the path of turning its loss of manufacturing jobs to the future of producing solar panels.
We can do that right here in South Carolina. We have the people to make this happen; we need the leadership to put us on the path to energy independence.
Now is the time to act.
Future generations must have the same national security assurances, job opportunities, and ability to experience South Carolina’s beauty as I did as a little girl, mesmerized by the sight of the pristine beaches of Fripp Island, South Carolina.