Thursday’s Coastal Energy Summit drew a mix of protesters who converged on the downtown Wilmington Convention Center.
Some were environmental advocates taking issue with companies represented at the summit and practices such as seismic testing and hydraulic fracturing, also known as “fracking.” Others were supporters of the local film industry who directed their ire at Gov. Pat McCrory.
Most picketed the concourse alongside the center, holding signs that included several with pictures of McCrory that read: “Wanted: for murder of the North Carolina film industry.” Three protesters got in and disrupted the proceedings, shouting at McCrory and fellow speaker Jack Gerard, president of the American Petroleum Institute.
McCrory announced last month he would not be calling back the General Assembly to revisit the state’s film tax credit, which expires this year and is set to be replaced with a significantly reduced grant fund program. Several state and local officials had requested that he do so.
Observers say the decision will result in an exodus of productions that will seek to roll cameras in states with better incentives. The current incentive—a 25 percent refundable tax credit for productions that spend at least $250,000—has been credited with an upsurge in filming in recent years.
Other protesters focused on environmental concerns. James Ablard, a participant in the grassroots movement Organizing for Action, collected signatures for the group’s climate petition, which seeks support for Environmental Protection Agency standards to clean up carbon pollution from existing power plants.
Ablard said the group was focused on Duke Energy’s coal-fired plants in North Carolina, though he also spoke against the event’s first featured speaker.
“I think Jack Gerard has no place in this economy,” Ablard said. “His idea that oil should be used for energy is antediluvian and destructive. There’s no place for it.
“We now have a viable automobile technology. The price is a little high, but that’ll come down as more people adopt it,” he said. “The thing for local government to do is to provide spaces for recharging those automobiles that are convenient to members of the public. The (City of Wilmington) already has recharging in its Second Street garage next to the library.
“So it can be done,” he said, “and it’s time to move away from the old and get in with the new.”
Ablard said he was not associated with the protester who shouted at Gerard, though he said he probably shared that person’s opinions.
Inside, Gerard and McCrory brushed off the outbursts, stating they encouraged thoughtful dialogue and what Gerard described as “robust debate.”
Gerard did address opponents of the oil industry, however, stating: “Now is not the time to pull back or to impede one of the bright spots in our economy…based on the misrepresentations advanced by anti-oil advocates, because make no mistake—those who are leading the anti-oil movement have their ultimate purpose: an economy without fossil fuel.
“Their vision for our nation and the world is of decline and a lower standard of living that most here would find intolerable,” he said. “In my view, that type of wrongheaded worldview should find no support among those who lead us and should have no place in the energy policy discussion.”
By Jonathan Spiers