Editor's note: This guest column originally ran in the March 1 edition of South Strand News.
Over the past six weeks, I have spoken at multiple events across the state hosted by SODA - Stop Offshore Drilling in the Atlantic - to explain that now …
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Over the past six weeks, I have spoken at multiple events across the state hosted by SODA - Stop Offshore Drilling in the Atlantic - to explain that now is the time for citizens to write the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and voice the many reasons seismic airgun surveys and drilling for oil and gas are not compatible with our coastal economy and way of life. While clearly the tide has turned and most people understand what a bad deal oil and gas are for our coast, we still hear occasional remarks about needing oil and gas for our national security, etc. SODA is not only committed to protecting our coast from oil and gas development, but we also support the development and installation of renewable energy technologies to ensure we have a truly secure energy future.
On Feb. 23, I was thrilled to have two glimpses into South Carolina's energy future by touring a new solar installation at Hopsewee Plantation and Clemson University's Energy Innovation Center in Charleston.
What a study in contrasts. A National Historic Landmark, Hopsewee Plantation was one of the South's major rice plantations. The property, which still holds two former homes of enslaved people whose labor carved acres of impoundments from cypress wetlands and coaxed rice out of the fields, was also the birthplace of Thomas Lynch Jr., one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. This majestic plantation, built some 40 years before the Revolutionary War, now hosts one of the newest and largest residential solar projects on our coast. Hopsewee's 144-solar panel installation is rated at 40 kilowatts of electricity. On an annual basis, it is projected to provide approximately 70 percent of Hopsewee's total power needs.
On the same tour, we visited the world's most advanced wind-turbine drivetrain testing facility, part of Clemson University's commitment to our energy future. The site also hosts the Zucker Family Graduate Education Center, where engineering students, university faculty and private industry work together to bring energy innovations to the marketplace. It is very exciting to meet the students who are designing the next-generation power grid and wind turbines.
My friends in SODA and I have been fighting to stop drilling off our coast for the past three years and will continue to do so until our state and our nation understand that now is not the time to encourage new oil and gas frontiers but instead to accelerate the transition to wind and solar power. In the same amount of time it will take to explore for and establish oil and gas production in the Atlantic (about 15 years), we can instead focus now on supporting our next generation of scientists and engineers who are tackling the remaining challenges in energy storage and power distribution so that we will have a safer, cleaner and more sustainable future. It is in this shift that we will find true national energy security, not in staying addicted to finite fossil fuel resources which harm our water and air quality, our health and our oceans.
Remember to submit your comments to BOEM by March 9. Your comments can be submitted electronically at http://www.regulations.gov or by mail by sending your letter to: Ms. Kelly Hammerle, National OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Program Manager, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (VAM-LD), 45600 Woodland Road, Sterling, VA 20166-9216.
The future of our coast is in your hands.
Howell was the first female "company man" on an offshore drill rig who helped found the organization SODA - Stop Offshore Drilling in the Atlantic.
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