Within the next day or two, a new revised moratorium on deepwater oil and gas drilling (a drilling ban) is expected from the White House. While admirable in intention, this ban poses a new problem in and of itself. In fact, it now threatens to destroy the economy of south Louisiana, just as the oil spill itself is destroying the environment and many peoples lives.
What effect does a ban on drilling really have?
Forget the big oil companies: What does a ban on oil drilling mean for everyday people like you and me? In Louisiana alone, over 320,000 people’s livelihoods are tied to the gas and oil industry. In south Louisiana, this industry supports one in every three jobs.
The Louisiana Department of Economic Development estimates that, in as little as 12 months, 20,000 of these jobs could be lost. While certainly some of these people will be able to move on and find other work, it is definitely not feasible for such a large number of people to recover so easily. Many of them do not have the resources available to pick up and move to a new area as jobs run out. This means they will not be able to feed their families or pay their bills. Not only will many of these people be forced into drawing unemployment and putting their families on welfare, they will no longer be able to pay taxes. Obviously, none of these things are good for the state or the country’s economy.
What other industries are being affected?
We are all aware that this ban has a direct impact on those working in the oil industry, but they are not the only ones being affected.
In south Louisiana, just about everything is interdependent on drilling. It affects every industry. Not only are the people working in the oil and gas industry unable to pay taxes, neither are the companies themselves. In the past, this industry has supported around 14 percent (about $1.4 billion) of the state’s budget, the budget which supports schools, hospitals, police forces, and the like. The industry also pays around $172 million annually to local governments, not to mention the $560 million in taxes paid by workers in the industry.
In other words, the loss of this income will have a devastating effect on the state, especially the southern parishes, where most of the industry participants are concentrated. In laymen’s terms, this could ultimately cause the closing of schools, or the scaling back of the availability of emergency services. All of the aforementioned losses will be added to those the state has already suffered from the oil spill itself (such as the massive, crippling blow to their other largest industry, fishing).
But what about the risks of continuing to drill?
Yes, drilling does come with risks, both to the workers and to the environment. No one is discrediting this issue, especially not now, in the wake of such ecological devastation.
However, it’s important to remember the facts. The drilling ban is affecting only a handful of rigs (most of which are the ones off of the Louisiana coast); drilling is still going on. The accident causing this oil spill was a “perfect storm” of poor decisions (many of which seem to have been based on statistical improbabilities), equipment failures, etc. This is not a common occurrence.
That said, I fully agree with and support better government oversight and tighter regulation of the safety of our oilrigs. Whatever the cost of updating the safety measures on those rigs, it will be less than the potential cost of not doing so. Most importantly, the lives and well-being of oil workers need to be protected, and second only to that is the well-being of our environment.
This is not a problem that is going to be solved by ignoring it or pushing it aside; that is all a ban is doing. That path will only make things worse with everyday that goes by. We, as a people, need to face this problem head-on, demanding more accountability but still acting responsibly in the interest of our fellow citizens. This is not about big business; this is about the thousands and thousands of families who are and will suffer if this ban continues. Adding tragedy upon tragedy is not a solution; it is creating a whole new problem.
Ben German, “White House: Revised Drilling Ban Coming ‘in the Next Few Days’,” The Hill
“Governor Jindal Letter to President Obama and Secretary Salazar: Severe Impacts of Moratorium on Deepwater Drilling,” Emergency.Louisiana.Gov
“JUST THE FACTS: Drilling Moratorium’s Impact on Louisiana’s Families and Economy,” Emergency.Louisiana.Gov