In 2017, 50 percent of Virginia’s electricity generation was based in natural gas, which is predicted to continue through 2050, even with the use and renewable forms of energy on the rise. As the industry ramps up natural gas production, the American Petroleum Institute (API) has announced the formation of the bipartisan “Explore Offshore” coalition, set to support access to offshore drilling in the Atlantic, and to expand the depth of America’s energy resources.

The new coalition will consist of more than 100 community organizations, associations, businesses, and local leaders in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, all of whom support increased access to offshore U.S. oil and natural gas resources.

The effort in the Commonwealth will be led by the state co-chairs, former 90th District Delegate Winsome Sears, and former 93rd District Delegate Mike Watson. The bipartisan national co-chairs of the coalition are former Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jim Nicholson, who served during the George W. Bush Administration, and former Secretary of the Navy and former Virginia Senator Jim Webb.

“I am honored to be part of this effort to bring Virginians together to promote job creation and bolster national security through offshore oil and natural gas exploration,” Sears said. “The potential benefits of developing Virginia’s offshore oil and natural gas resources could be a game-changer for communities throughout the Commonwealth, generating tens of thousands of high-paying jobs and hundreds of millions in much-needed state revenue.”

A press release from API states that Virginia could be blessed with over 25,000 new jobs in the oil and natural gas industry. Moreover, further developments in offshore drilling could result in $1.5 billion in private investment Virginia, resulting in $230 million in annual state revenues.

When it comes to decreasing the country’s dependence on foreign energy, advancements in exploration will allow the Atlantic Coast to offset the influence oil and natural gas from international brokers has on the U.S. “As a veteran, I know how important energy security is to national security as it lessens our dependence on foreign nations. Responsible offshore oil and natural gas development can make our nation more secure, while growing our economy here in the Commonwealth,” Sears explained.

Watson, who will serve in tandem with Sears, charged that it is time that energy exploration off the Atlantic Coast begins, something that has not happened in three decades. “As a business owner who works directly with manufacturing, defense, and other industries, I know that access to affordable, reliable energy is critical for each. While we strive to boost our nation’s economy and security, demand for oil and natural gas will likely rise,” Watson said.

Virginia Petroleum Council Director Miles Morin says, “Members of Explore Offshore are united in support for expanding access to America’s offshore energy resources to meet growing demand, fortify our national security, and provide stability for our country’s families and small businesses.”

As the U.S. surpasses Saudi Arabia in oil production, and is set to become the world’s top producer by 2020, undoubtedly, the exploration off offshore drilling will ensure that the U.S. is no longer dependent on foreign energy reserves.