U.S. Congressman Jeff Duncan (SC-District 3), who serves on the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce, discussed the pros and cons of a number of energy resource topics during Lander University's 2018 Energy Forum on Wednesday, March 28, in the Abney Cultural Center Auditorium.
As more than 250 students and community members looked on, Duncan fielded a host of questions submitted online in advance.
Describing himself as a believer in the development and use of nuclear power and fossil fuels, including natural gas and oil, Duncan also hailed the promise of wind and solar-powered energy.
"There is potential with the advancement of solar and wind technology, but we do not yet have the battery storage capability for either to maintain a 24/7 base load for power, which is the ability to provide a constant and reliable source of energy," he said. "Until we're able to fully develop that technology, why would we abandon the forms of energy that are already working (to supply a constant power source)?"
The economic power of energy
Duncan's passion for energy independence for South Carolina was sparked during the 2008-2014 economic downturn between. "It was the energy producing states (the Dakotas, Louisiana, Wyoming and Texas) that were able to weather the recession more successfully than others," he said. "Those states (fared much better) because they were able to continue to produce and export energy."
Natural gas an alternative to nuclear?
Even though he's a champion of nuclear power, Duncan expressed concern about the recent halt of the construction of nuclear plants in South Carolina. "Before construction stopped, two of the four nuclear reactors in this country were to be built in our state. That means that fifty percent of the nation's new nuclear reactor capability was happening here in South Carolina. We were about seven years into the construction phase when it suddenly stopped. As a state, we were planning to meet our future electrical needs based upon nuclear power, but that's no longer in the mix. We're going to have to replace that with something, and I believe what the state will do is look to natural-gas fired generators."
The controversial topic of the Department of the Interior's early January decision to open thousands of miles of Atlantic and Pacific coastal zones to offshore oil and gas exploration was also tackled by Duncan. Noting that any exploration platforms would be located 60-70 miles offshore and unable to be seen from land, he also downplayed the chances of a Deepwater Horizon-like oil spill that affected the gulf coast states.
"The keyword to remember about that incident," said Duncan, "is 'Deepwater.' They had to go 5,600 hundred feet beneath the ocean surface just to begin drilling. The difficulty was the forced use of robotics to attempt to cap the leak. Off the South Carolina coast, we have a gentle sloping continental shelf, so any exploration will be carried out at shallow depths."
Noting the concern for the protection of marine animal life during underwater seismic surveys exploring potential oil and natural gas deposits, Duncan stated that not one verifiable account of a marine animal being injured has been reported as a result of any seismic work carried out by U.S. companies throughout the world's oceans.
While Duncan said that many U.S. citizens may take the constant 24/7 base load of power for granted, other parts of the world would continue to benefit from this country's energy exploration efforts.
"From the development of the cotton gin, automobiles and airplanes, our energy exploration and development has provided an improvement in the quality of life for so many around the world," he said. "But even today, many third world countries suffer from energy poverty. With further exploration of the natural resources we have in abundance, we can continue to improve the lives of so many others. For the first time, we are a net exporter of natural gas and crude oil."
Other uses of petroleum-based products.
Duncan also used the energy forum to educate participants about other uses made possible from oil and natural gas. "God gave us the ability to discover and extract the resources known as fossil fuels inside the Earth, but energy is not the only use," he said. "The plastic for water bottles, eyeglass frames and cellphones are but a few of the many uses of petroleum-based products."