Coastal North Carolina towns are coming out against off-shore drilling. Who can blame them? Accidents off the Gulf coast have closed beaches, caused long-term environmental damage and harmed both the fishing and tourism industries. Drilling poses risks that could upend their economies for uncertain economic benefits. It’s a gamble they’re not ready to take.
Both Pat McCrory and Barack Obama support testing for oil off the coast. While support for off-shore drilling used to be in the tank, entanglements in oil rich Middle Eastern states and demands for energy self-sufficiency have reversed the trend. For a lot of people who don’t live on the coast, the fear of terrorism and war outweighs the risk of oil spills and spoiled ocean views.
However, with oil prices dropping to lows not seen in decades, the risk of any drilling soon is low. States like North Dakota, Texas, and Oklahoma can provide plenty to meet demand. With Iran now ready to start selling oil legally on the global market again, the price will likely continue to plummet.
Oil economies are boom and bust. North Dakota was on the brink of extinction 15 years ago and oil made it a boom state. Today, the plummeting price might put them where they were before the boom hit, sending people fleeing for jobs in other states.
Chasing oil is like the miners of yore chasing gold. More people go bust than get rich. In North Carolina, we’ve built a stable tourist economy on the coast, balancing development with preservation. We’ve managed our fisheries well enough to sustain a recreational and commercial fishing industry that brings in billions of dollars to the state and creates tens of thousands of jobs. We would be better to protect the industries and economies we’ve built than risk them on a boom-bust industry that could destroy both tourism and fishing for years at a time.