Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Energy and that not-so empty ocean expanse

The Governor's Scientific Advisory Panel on Offshore Energy has begun meeting to figure out what recommendations it can make to Gov. Bev Perdue about the production of energy in offshore areas adjacent to North Carolina. The first meeting Tuesday focused on such things as the U.S. Minerals Management Service and how it administers the offshore exploration program for oil and gas. The panel also plans to look at other energy source issues, including offshore (and in N.C. sounds) wind generators.

Among the first things the panel heard about was an advisory from the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University about how crowded those seemingly empty offshore spaces have already become -- and how policymakes must figure out how competing interests can share the space.

Bill Holman, director of state policy for the institute, handed out a policy brief from the institute that noted, among other things:

"Simply put, many areas in North Carolina's coastal and offshore waters are becoming crowded, with too many users vying for the same space. Telecommunications cables preclude trawling for commercially important species; marine transportation routes are becoming clogged with commercial and recreational vessel traffic; proposed wind farms and recreational anglers might both like access to the same parts of the estuary; mining, sand and gravel activities affect ecologically and economically important habitats."

This means North Carolina's coastal and marine waters need better spatial planning, the brief notes.

"New proposals for offshore energy, a growing tourism and recreation industry (including boating, beachgoing, diving, and wildlife viewing), proposed aquaculture, and existing commercial fishing, mining and military use of airspace and waters compete for space within North Carolina's state and nearby federal waters."