There is a tragedy unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico, a tragedy made purely of political calculus. Unfortunately for the Obama administration, this tragedy is wholly their doing and cannot be blamed, much as they would probably prefer, on George W. Bush.
The tragedy is the impact of President Obama’s six-month deep water drilling moratorium, a decision that will have far-reaching effects in terms of job losses and economic ruin.
Earlier this week, the tide seemed to turn when a district court judge ruled that the six-month moratorium on deep water offshore drilling was not justified, even with the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
The judge, Martin Feldman, was correct. Shortly after the spill began, the administration elicited the support of experts from the National Academy of Engineering to make recommendations and approve a plan to address drilling safety concerns. The final document contained a six-month moratorium on all drilling, a recommendation that none of the experts ever approved.
No matter. The administration claimed the whole document was reviewed by experts and imposed the moratorium on anyway.
The experts who reviewed the plan were furious: Their names and reputations had been used publicly to advance a policy they don’t approve. Eight of the experts used said their names were used to justify a “political decision.” The plan did include a six month hiatus on new deep water permits, but it was silent on existing drilling. Had that been recommended, according to one of the experts, they would have called it “craziness.”
“This was a political call; this was not a technical call,” added Ken Arnold, another expert consulted for the plan.
On June 10th Salazar did apologize to the experts for misrepresenting their views. But as Mark Tapscott of the Washington Examiner points out, the very next day Salazar again erroneously used the experts’ credibility as justification for the moratorium, this time in federal court.
With all this evidence in mind, Judge Feldman made the right call and issued an injunction against the moratorium.
But the Obama administration is now doubling down on politics-disguised-as-science. Apparently too arrogant to accept the error of this arbitrary moratorium, Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar said the ban is “needed to protect the communities and the environment of the Gulf Coast.” The Secretary also announced that he will “issue a new order in the coming days that eliminates any doubt that a moratorium is needed, appropriate, and within our authorities.”
This is what has become of the Obama administration. A political decision to endanger thousands of jobs is rejected by the courts and the even the experts who allegedly approved it, yet the administration blindly defends it on the basis of its own self-assurance. They want the moratorium to be justified, therefore it is justified.
This is a strange position for a President who entered office promising us that science would not take a backseat to politics.
So what does Hurricane Obama portend for the Gulf Coast?
The New York Times reports that this latest incarnation of the Politics of Change could cost 50,000 jobs in the Gulf of Mexico, a level of economic devastation that doesn’t even factor in the impact on coastal communities who depend on energy production. Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA.) said the ban could touch as many as 330,000 people in Louisiana alone.
As for monetary impacts, the moratorium could destroy more than $165 million per month in lost wages. Gulf energy production is also a major source of government revenue, and the drilling ban puts more than $7 billion in future revenues at risk.
Others point out that the ban’s impacts will last beyond the stated six-month timeframe. With the moratorium in place, larger companies who have massive capital investments in drilling technology will likely take their operations to Brazil or even South Africa, taking millions of dollars and thousands of jobs away from America for years. Smaller producers who paid the high upfront costs to begin drilling and have not yet covered those costs will simply have to shut down.
One such company is Walter Oil & Gas Corp., which invested millions of dollars and was within a few thousand feet of reaching the oil that would finally start generating revenue for them. That hope is gone now, according to Walter. Because of the moratorium, “we don’t know if we will ever have the opportunity to get a return on our investment,” said Ron Wilson, a manager for the company.
With unemployment near 10 percent, the time is now to abandon this job-killing decision. Mr. President, for the sake of the people of the Gulf coast, listen to the courts and the experts you relied on and end the moratorium.
Steve Everley is Manager of Policy Research at American Solutions and a contributing author to To Save America: Stopping Obama’s Secular-Socialist Machine by Newt Gingrich. Prior to joining American Solutions, Everley worked as a research assistant at the American Enterprise Institute. He graduated summa cum laude from the University of Kansas and attended graduate school at the University of Southern California.