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The SEA Jobs Act: Connecting Industry and STEM Training

By Sen. Tim Scott,

In July, after years of careful scientific examination and environmental review, the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) issued its final decision to allow studies in the Atlantic to update 40-year-old data on offshore oil and natural gas resources. While I have reservations about some of the environmental restrictions included in the decision, this means that for the first time in decades, new 21st century technology will be used to better understand the totality of the energy resources that lie just beneath the Atlantic seabed.

Just as one wouldn’t use a computer from the 1970s to access today’s Internet, the United States shouldn’t be relying on data from 40-year-old technology to give a clear picture of our energy resources. Today, 3D digital mapping of oil and natural gas resources is safely available through seismic surveys—imaging technology akin to an ultrasound—of the ocean floor that produce maps that can also be utilized by the shipping and transportation industry as well as offshore wind energy projects.

Oil and natural gas production in the offshore Atlantic still requires the inclusion of the Atlantic in a five-year lease plan and for leases to be offered and bid upon, which could take years. But the ability to conduct seismic surveys is vital to determining what energy potential exists in the Atlantic.

With oil and natural gas jobs increasing by more than 40 percent since the beginning of the recession, American energy production is one of the only bright spots in our still recovering economy. These aren’t just direct production jobs but also service industry jobs and other indirect supportive jobs, including those that require a strong STEM education background.

As part of my Opportunity Agenda, I introduced S. 2202, the Southern Energy Access (SEA) Jobs Act, in the Senate, which recognizes that the nexus of strong STEM education programs and a burgeoning energy economy creates wealth, prosperity and economic growth. My legislation would create this connection in South Atlantic states that have the potential for a strong energy economy and room to grow in STEM education opportunities to support this new energy economy.

The SEA Jobs Act would open the Atlantic to energy production, which could create 280,000 jobs, add $24 billion to the economy, and generate $51 billion in government revenue. The legislation would also create a public-private partnership with institutes of higher education and historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) to enhance and broaden the study of geological and geophysical sciences, encourage new seismic studies of offshore energy resources and educate the next generation of America’s offshore energy scientists.

Finally, we cannot talk about the freedom to create jobs or explore new offshore areas for energy without remembering to honor the sacrifice and commitment of those who have served our country so bravely in uniform. The legislation would also establish a veterans’ workforce training program, using revenues from Atlantic offshore energy production to fund employment training that supports U.S. oil and natural gas production.

To ensure offshore energy production in the Atlantic is successful and provides meaningful returns to states, local communities, families and small businesses, we must create an environment where highly trained scientists and skilled workers are valued and cultivated for generations.

My Opportunity Agenda is founded on the principle that all Americans should have the opportunity to succeed, which is also the foundation of the SEA Jobs Act.

Education and job training opportunities combined with an innovative industry like American energy production will create a pathway to prosperity for hundreds of thousands of Americans that will serve as the catalyst for improved socioeconomic conditions for all Americans. Increased job opportunities, better education, lower energy prices and a strong economy that is energy secure are the keys to a strong economic recovery and lasting change in America’s workforce.

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