Op-ed: Understanding North Carolina’s Offshore Energy Opportunity

By  Captain James McCormick, Program Director of Vets4Energy

You might have heard that President Donald Trump has pledged to open up more of America’s offshore territory to energy exploration and possible future development. This is an important change of policy. And it’s one that can have huge benefits for North Carolina and for the nation. Let me explain.

While America continues to explore renewable energy solutions, we know that natural gas and oil will continue to be a huge part of our national energy portfolio for decades to come. Exploring the energy resources available in the outer continental shelf (OCS), which includes the offshore area here in North Carolina, is going to be an important part of meeting our energy needs.

The benefits from exploring and developing this offshore energy are expected to be enormous. Experts estimate that developing the areas that are currently off limits—which includes 94 percent of offshore acreage—could result in as many as 840,000 new jobs nationally, $200 billion in government revenue, and 3.5 million barrels of oil equivalent per day of increased energy production.

A January 2018 study by Calash explored the potential impact exploration could have on the state of North Carolina alone. It estimated that by 2040, contributions from the industry to the state’s economy could be up to $3.5 billion annually. In addition, potential from revenue sharing, royalties, bonuses and rents were estimated at up to $500 million a year or $2.8 million cumulatively. When it comes to workforce expansion, it projected up to 56,000 jobs.

Simply put, this has the potential to be a game changer. It’s important to note, as well, that we are very likely underestimating how much energy is available in these offshore areas. The most recent seismic surveys, which are used to estimate how much natural gas and oil are below the surface, are from the 1980s. Just like tape decks and Members Only jackets, the technology used to create these surveys has gone out of style.

We can take a quick look at the Gulf of Mexico for an idea on how these estimates might grow. The 1987 estimate for energy stores in the Gulf of Mexico pegged it at 9.57 billion barrels of oil. A survey conducted in 2011 raised that estimate to 48 billion barrels. That’s a five-fold increase. And, since that survey is now seven years old, technological advancements made in the last few years might raise those estimates even more.

This is an incredible opportunity, and it’s right on our doorstep. In the past several years, the United States has emerged as the world’s leading energy producer. We achieved this by embracing opportunities like the one currently afforded to us in offshore energy. Our resulting move toward energy independence makes America safer and more secure.

We know that we can safely develop these offshore energy resources. We know that they’ll yield tremendous benefits for North Carolinians.

The time to act is now.

Captain McCormick has been a long-time spokesman for both the North Carolina Petroleum Council and the NC Energy Forum, as well as for API (American Petroleum Institute) on the national level. In general, NC is one of the primary states he advocates for. He is very familiar in working with local, regional, and national news publications to talk about the energy industry and its effects on economics, workforce, and national security. With a veterans angle, he provides a unique viewpoint into the larger story on the issue.

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