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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

McCrory eyes revenue from oil and gas drilling, counts chickens before they hatch

Posted by on Tue, Feb 19, 2013 at 8:25 AM

Has Gov. Pat McCrory been hypnotized by The Beverly Hillbillies?

Specifically, the opening sequence in which Jed Clampett Is "shootin' at some food" when, as the ballad goes, "up through the ground came a bubblin' crude."

Oil, that is, black gold, "Texas Tea."

You might think McCrory has drunk the Texas Tea if you heard him crow about the financial benefits of tracking offshore drilling in his State of the State address last night: "Think what we can do with future revenue."

Yes, let's think about it: Besides the obvious environmental hazards (have we forgotten the BP disaster already?), it is unknown how much "economically recoverable" deposits—those that can be accessed cheaply enough for energy companies to turn a profit— lie in federal waters in the mid-Atlantic. (Federal waters extend from three to 200 miles from shore, yet fall under a state's administrative areas.)

Even if sizable deposits were discovered, it would require a change in federal law for North Carolina or any mid-Atlantic state to receive royalties. Currently, only the Gulf states and Alaska share in revenue from drilling operations in federal waters; lawmakers from those states are lobbying for more money from the feds.

And as the INDY reported in 2010 in a story about the prospects of off-shore drilling, those discoveries would only briefly sate Americans' appetite for oil and gas. Overall, Americans use about 840 million gallons of oil per day, according to the Energy Information Agency, meaning even on the high end, the amount of oil in the mid-Atlantic would feed our habit for roughly seven weeks. As for natural gas, the deposits would provide about six months' worth.

McCrory's push to put rigs in the Atlantic is in part a response to last year's Senate Bill 709, which Gov. Beverly Perdue vetoed. That bill would have requested Perdue to join a compact with other states, including Virginia and South Carolina to develop and implement a strategy to increase exploration and production of offshore oil and gas.” In his State of the State address, McCrory said he would enter into such an agreement.

Inland, where fracking could begin as early as next year, preliminary estimates of North Carolina's gas potential are "wildly optimistic," according to Ken Taylor, assistant state geologist with the N.C. geological survey.

(Senate Bill 76, the Domestic Jobs Act, will be heard in the Commerce Committee today at 11 a.m. in Room 1027 of the Legislative Building.)

And as INDY Week reported last spring, an N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources study showed that drilling activities in the 59,000-acre Sanford sub-basin would sustain an annual average of 387 jobs over seven years, peaking with 858 jobs in year six. These jobs would be temporary and it would be unlikely that highest-paying positions for experienced drillers would go to North Carolinians, who have not been trained for that work.

So, governor, set a spell. Take your shoes off. Y'all come back now, y'hear?

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