U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett, Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, state Rep. Nikki Haley and Attorney General Henry McMaster all say natural gas reserves off South Carolina's coast could be an economic boon to the state and help the country become energy independent.
Barrett predicts tapping into natural gas would create thousands of jobs and perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars in royalties. He proposes putting 70 percent of that revenue toward infrastructure, 20 percent to law enforcement and 10 percent into renewable energies.
Some experts doubt that commercially feasible oil exists off South Carolina's coast, but three candidates want to explore, provided safeguards are in place. Haley compared the Gulf of Mexico oil spill to a plane crash.
"We don't stop all the planes from flying. What we do is we look at that accident, we learn from it and say, 'What do we need to do to make sure that it doesn't happen again?' " Haley said.
Bauer said the $75 million federal cap on oil spill liability, beyond direct cleanup costs, must be lifted to lead companies to use the latest technology and equipment.
McMaster had more reservations, saying it might be impossible to ensure oil drilling can be done without a spill.
"If we mess up this coastline, we'll never get it back," he said. "Then we have ruined ourselves for the future because that's part of the economic engine."
Barrett, Bauer and McMaster said outright that any drilling rigs must be far enough off shore to be out of sight from land. Barrett said no structures within 20 miles of the coast. Haley said she would study the rigs' effects on the environment and tourism before deciding.
All four champion the expansion of nuclear energy, both for job creation and as a clean energy solution. They support promoting other alternative energy sources, such as solar, wind and hydrogen, but say only nuclear currently offers substantial energy output.
All four believe plans for Nevada's Yucca Mountain must get back on track so highly radioactive nuclear waste isn't permanently stored in South Carolina.