Scooby Doo's Shaggy is a junkie, at least when it comes to his favorite treat, Scooby Snacks. And so are we when it comes to our dependence on energy. And like our favorite goatee-sporting ghostbuster — who is prone to wander into a haunted house in search of his next fix — our addiction makes us particularly vulnerable to doing stupid things. But today we have the unique opportunity to take an important step forward thanks to the Clemson University Restoration Institute, which plans to build a multimillion dollar wind turbine test facility in the Lowcountry.
According to Nick Rigas, director of the institute's renewable energy focus area, the Charleston facility will drive wind power technology across the country.
Oil companies, as well as other archaic energy providers, see the writing on the wall. They're working hard to squeeze every dollar out of petroleum. The campaign is becoming shameless and overt. They're hoping we're stupid enough to ignore the gun they're sticking in our backs while they walk us to the edge of the cliff. They don't care if we fall off because they're getting rich in the process.
They know the logic of alternative energy, but they're trying hard to open up drilling throughout the United States, including off the South Carolina coast. And they're using the misfortune of you and I to do it, hoping we're desperate enough to sell our souls and get behind them.
Remember when gas jumped to about $4 a gallon? When people were begging for mercy, Big Oil made a push for more drilling in the U.S. They preyed on normal Americans, who were being pushed to their knees by the crisis, claiming they could provide relief. If only we could drill. If only we were less dependent on foreign oil.
Fortunately, we saw past the sleazy smile. We realized that the hope they promised would not come for at least a decade and would only result in saving a few cents per gallon for us. The "market" would ensure the savings were irrelevant. The real change would have meant billions of dollars for oil executives and a bigger needle in our oil-junkie arms.
Now, we are in a new crisis. This time, they say that drilling will provide more jobs and more tax revenue for governments and that we're funding terrorism by not doing so. That's crap.
The problem is our dependence on oil, not who we're getting oil from. Sure, we don't want to give billions of dollars to countries that would like to see us burn, but feeding the hunger with U.S. oil just slows the bleeding. Alternative energy solves the problem in the long run and is better for the environment to boot. People will have to be hired to operate alternative energy facilities just the same as they would an oil rig.
"As the wind energy market emerges along the East Coast and turbines continue to grow in size and weight, South Carolina is strategically positioned to serve as an industrial hub for this evolving industry," says John Kelly, executive director of the Clemson University Restoration Institute.
According to the Department of Energy South Carolina alone could gain 10,000 to 20,000 jobs in the next 20 years just from wind energy. This is extremely exciting. We could be at the forefront of this movement for which everyone has been waiting. We can do it without selling our souls to oil and other forms of non-renewable energy. We can be proud.
The salvation promised by Big Oil is nothing more than a short-term fix, another Scooby Snack to keep us hooked and acting stupid. It's time we stood up together and looked beyond ourselves. Wind energy has the potential to be huge for Charleston and the world.
So here we are, Charleston. Clemson has gotten $98 million in funding for the project. We should see construction this year and a functional, modern wind turbine facility could be operating by 2012.
So oil or wind? That question seems unfair in retrospect. Big Oil and other energy providers don't have an argument, and we're not stupid. When you hear the rhetoric about how expanding drilling will save South Carolina and the rest of the country, just look forward to the wind turbine facility and say "blow me."