As the president attempts to curb the nation’s spewing anger over the Gulf oil spill in Tuesday’s national address, leaders and experts in Louisiana say the administration is continuing to strike out.
Earlier this month, the president ordered a six month ban on exploratory deepwater drilling – a move some experts predict will pour salt into the wounds of the already injured region.
The moratorium could lead to massive job losses in Louisiana, which relies on drilling to support its economy, Louisiana State University Economist James Richardson said.
“The moratorium could be more devastating than the leak, because more people are employed by the oil industry than the fishing industry,” he said.
The moratorium could cost the state more than 20,000 jobs by the end of the year, according to the Louisiana Department of Economic Development. The Department estimates for every one employee working on a rig, nine employees onshore are working to support that rig.
“During one of the most challenging economic periods in decades, the last thing we need is to enact public policies that will certainly destroy thousands of existing jobs while preventing the creation of thousands more,” Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal said in a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.
Last week, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) told ABC’s “Good Morning America” the administration issued the moratorium without much economic analysis. She said she is continuing to urge the administration to life the drilling ban, before it causes the region “more economic hardship.”
Unfortunately for concerned Louisiana residents, the cries against the drilling ban may be falling on deaf ears. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs indicated that he supported the moratorium in an interview this week with Fox News.
“We don’t know what caused this accident,” Gibbs told Fox News. “I don’t think the people of the Gulf, even those dependent upon those jobs, or the people of this country believe that we ought to be letting BP go forward with the drilling process when we’re still cleaning up the mess of the last time they tried to drill at a deep-water depth in the Gulf.”
With one of the state’s biggest industries – fishing – coming to screeching halt, state officials are warning the White House Louisiana’s economy won’t be able to handle a loss of its other major industry – oil.
Broken down by industry, the Louisiana Department of Economic Development estimates fishing and tourism contributes $10 billion to the Louisiana economy, while energy contributes $65 billion.
“Mr. President, you were looking for someone’s butt to kick – you’re kicking ours,” Lafourche Parish President Charlotte Randolph told the AP.
Louisiana lawmakers rallying against the drilling ban unanimously passed a bill asking the Obama administration to lift the moratorium.
“Every one of these deepwater well employs directly hundreds of people and indirectly thousands,” Landrieu told the AP. “This is one company. This is one well. It’s a terrible situation and no one is making light of it. But what I’m saying, as strongly as I can, to this President is the economic analysis is devastating to thousands of companies.
Jindal met with Obama’s Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett last week to appeal the six month moratorium because he still doesn’t think the administration understands the seriousness of the ban.
“She asked again why the rigs wouldn’t simply come back after six months,” he told the Times-Picayune. “What worries me is I fear they think these rigs can just flip a switch on and off.”
Following the moratorium, Anadarko Petroleum announced its intention to move three rigs out of the Gulf.
Richardson said more rigs could easily follow – and once the rigs leave the Gulf, contracts and obligations will prevent them from returning any time soon.
“This may turn into a year to two year moratorium, not by design but because it will take that long for oil rigs to start returning to the area,” he said.