Offshore Energy

Today the LA Times reported that Virginia could become the first state on the Eastern Seaboard to open it's coast to offshore drilling. Republican Governor Robert McDonnell and a bipartisan coalition in the state legislature hopes that the Obama administration will permit the sale of drilling leases at the end of the year. Its time to face one fact though, the projected amount of oil off the coast is around 130 million barrels. In the U.S. alone, we consume 20 million barrels each day so if we do the math, the oil off the coast could supply us for only 7 days! That's just not a logical investment.

The Virginia Legislature should instead be focusing on harnessing wind power. Last year UNC-CH prepared a report for the N.C. General Assembly outlining the potential energy that wind could produce for our state. The report said, that if we built a wind farm consisting of 450 offshore turbines we would generate 5.7 million megawatt hours of electricity each year, that would offset the emissions of nearly 9 million cars. Three weeks ago the N.C. Energy Policy Council heard a report by Paul Quinline from the N.C. Sustainable Energy Association. Mr. Quinline showed that the development of wind farms in 15% of the identified offshore regions could supply 20% of North Carolina's power needs.

Although there are still significant hurdles to overcome, states should not be making poor investments that are sure to harm the environment. As the Southern Environmental Law Center pointed out a spill along the eastern coast could affect shores from Cape Cod to South Carolina. We hope that North Carolina heeds this warning and does not follow the potential lead of Virginia.

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