4:22 p.m., June 11, 2009----Amongst some business suit-clad senators atop Capitol Hill Tuesday, June 9, discussion flowed around the economic possibilities presented by places where bathing suits are work attire.
A U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation subcommittee hearing on the “Blue Economy” discussed the role of the oceans in the nation's economic future. University of Delaware associate professor of marine policy, Willett Kempton, was a featured witness.
Subcommittee Chair Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., defined the blue economy as “the jobs and economic opportunities that emerge from our oceans, Great Lakes and coastal resources.” She noted it provides more than 50 million U.S. jobs and contributes more than 60 percent of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product.
The hearing dealt with the considerations ranging from commercial fishing to the health of the oceans to the vibrancy of coastal cities and towns.
Kempton's testimony focused on offshore wind power and what he believes it could add to the economy. According to Kempton, who is often cited as an expert in the field, offshore wind power is the United States' largest ocean energy source, even in comparison to offshore oil resources. His research found offshore oil resources would only produce half the energy offshore wind could generate.
He also spoke about offshore wind power's potential drawbacks, including the number of birds killed by turbines and their impact on prized ocean views.
“You have to really look at the balance -- it's the positive impacts minus the negative impacts,” he said, arguing the positives outweigh the negatives.
Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, a 2008 recipient of an honorary doctorate from UD, endorsed offshore wind power, offering up her own state's coastline as an initial site. Currently wind power in the U.S. is generated only by onshore turbines.
“We have to do everything we can to preserve the way of life on our coastal communities, the ocean and what they represent for energy purposes, for climate change, for our ecosystems, for our habitats,” she said. “People just truly don't understand the dimensions to which it contributes to this nation and for generations to come.”
A webcast of the hearing is available online.