It would be an understatement to say that the BP oil spill has caused economic and environmental harm to the residents of the Gulf coast. But as we look back over the first 100 days of this crisis, it’s important to recognize that not all of the devastation has come from the spill itself.
The most glaring example is President Obama’s six-month moratorium on deepwater oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, a policy that could kill tens of thousands of jobs by forcing energy companies to relocate their rigs and industrial assets overseas.
And the jobs are already leaving. Two weeks ago Diamond Offshore announced it had signed a drilling contract with Egypt to use a rig that to this point had been in the Gulf and employed American workers and generated American tax dollars. No longer.
Diamond’s CEO said the relocation was the “result of the uncertainties surrounding the offshore drilling moratorium.” He added that he and the company “greatly regret the loss of U.S. jobs that will result from this rig relocation.”
The relocation of just these two rigs threatens more than 200 jobs in the Gulf, a number that will only grow as the moratorium continues. One conservative estimate of the total jobs that will be destroyed is over 40,000.
These are also among the best jobs in the country, paying one and a half times as much as the average wage in the United States. For each platform that a company has to abandon because of the moratorium, nearly $10 million in wages each month will simply disappear for American workers.
Also striking is that one-third of America’s oil is produced in the Gulf, and as the moratorium continues that number will dramatically decline. The President has spoken publicly about reducing our dependence on foreign oil, but banning domestic production will only increase our reliance on the likes of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Even if the ban is lifted after six months, many of the rigs will have signed contracts with other countries, meaning the destructive impact on jobs could be felt for years, not months.
The administration can’t say it wasn’t warned, either.
After the ban was imposed in late May, several members of the drilling industry met with Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar and warned him that the moratorium was scaring off investment and would ultimately force them to relocate to other parts of the world, taking millions of dollars in revenue and thousands of jobs with them.
Nor were industry leaders the only opponents. Engineers from the National Academy of Engineering, with whom the administration consulted directly after the spill, advised against it. The courts on two separate occasions ruled against it. And most importantly, residents of the Gulf coast are against it.
Last Wednesday, 15,000 residents of the Gulf rallied in Lafayette, LA, to protest the President’s moratorium and its destructive impact on their way of life. “The president is not very popular around here these days,” said one of the participants. “We are losing business, and we can’t make any plans for next year or the year after.”
Another resident pointed out that it’s “not just the people out on the rigs” who are impacted. It’s “the people driving trucks, delivering services, selling food.” According to the Center for Energy Studies at Louisiana State University, about 100,000 people are employed in Louisiana because of offshore drilling and the companies that serve it.
The administration’s response to this massive outcry has been to ignore it all, keep the ban in place, and oversee a mass exodus of thousands of high-paying American jobs.
The 100th day of national crises traditionally provides the perfect opportunity to learn from mistakes, and the response to the Gulf oil spill should be no exception.
It’s clear that President Obama’s moratorium on deepwater drilling has not only been a colossal error, but one made purely of the president’s refusal to listen to experts, scientists, the courts and even the Gulf Coast residents who are the most impacted by the spill.
With American jobs already leaving the Gulf in droves because of the moratorium, it’s time for the President to right at least one of his wrongs in the spill response.
It’s time to stop the job-killing policies. It’s time to end the moratorium.