SCOTT MOONEYHAM: Drivel About Drilling For Oil Off N.C. Coast
Marc Basnight was unapologetic about the insult.
"You don't want to live in that area," the state Senate leader told reporters.
That place you don't want to live, the aim of the Basnight barb, was coastal Louisiana, an area that Fortune magazine once described as "glowing like rejected sets from Waterworld."
The glow is cast by the thousands of oil platforms, the 17 giant oil refineries, the more than 100 petrochemical plants, and the 35,000 miles of pipeline connecting all of this oil-producing and refining infrastructure.
Basnight, of course, was speaking about the prospects that the oil industry might come to his beloved Outer Banks and coastal North Carolina now that Congress has allowed an East Coast moratorium on offshore oil drilling to expire.
His comments came as he was announcing a legislative study of the issue.
"I believe we need to find the pros and cons of drilling off this coast," the Dare County Democrat said.
That's what he said. But it's obvious that he doesn't think much of the idea. He didn't the last time that offshore drilling was seriously discussed, in the late 1980s. He doesn't now.
But there was all that "drill, baby, drill" drivel during campaign season, and the polling on the topic. So Democrats in Congress caved, and Gov.-elect Beverly Perdue waffled, and now we have a legislative study -- not that state legislators or the governor have the authority to stop oil drilling in federal waters off the North Carolina coast.
During it all, it seemed that folks who vacationed or lived in the vicinity of Wilmington or Morehead City didn't think about what those communities might actually look like if baby's drilling really happened.
The state's big political boss had. Louisiana. Woo Hoo!
Basnight, though, may not have much to worry about.
Even if exploratory drilling led to significant oil discoveries off the state's coast, North Carolina's ports are simply no match for those of its neighbors to the north and south. Refineries and petrochemical plants are going to gravitate toward good ports and good transportation infrastructure.
The transportation infrastructure -- highways and railroads -- leading from the state's two port cities also can't compete with that in Charleston and Norfolk. It would take billions of dollars of new public investments to do so.
So the likelihood of oil refineries and petrochemical plants popping up all over coastal North Carolina would seem slim, no matter the outcome of drilling.
Of course, that's the point, and will probably be the ultimate finding of any study.
Without the accompanying refineries and their offshoots, what's the economic benefit to North Carolina? There are no current plans to provide states with any royalties from oil revenue gained from drilling in federal waters off Eastern Seaboard states.
So what was the purpose of all this?
Oh, yeah. The high price of gas.
Scott Mooneyham writes for Capitol Press Association. Contact him at email@example.com
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