On Monday, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, who was appointed by President Barack Obama to lead the federal government’s oil spill recovery efforts, held a town hall meeting in Theodore, Alabama. Rather than dictating their plans to the citizens, he said the government wants to listen to the residents of the coast as it makes decisions on the best long-term recovery plan for the region.
Better late than never, right?
The Alabama Press-Register reports that during the meeting, Mabus told residents that the projects that have the best chance of being funded are those that create jobs, correct longstanding problems, and move the economy away from its dependence on oil and gas production and toward renewable energy production.
The cry that needs to be heard loud and clear by the government from coastal residents and local business leaders: end the moratorium, now.
Under the current stall of gulf coast drilling, the opposite of each one of Mabus’s goals will take place. Jobs will not be created, but lost. Not only will longstanding problems of the region not be addressed, but instead more will form. And speaking of dependency on oil, our dependency on foreign oil will increase as a result of the moratorium.
While the government aimed to impress this moratorium on “big oil” conglomerates, they failed to take the time to consider the detrimental effect on independent oil and gas producers.
Don Briggs, President of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association, explains in The Daily Advertiser, that these independent producers are the ones who stand to suffer the greatest from the moratorium. They produce and drill nearly 50 percent of all wells and represent 70 percent of all lease activity in the Gulf of Mexico. These independent producers account for about half of the nearly 400,000 jobs, $70 billion in the economic values and $20 billion in the federal, state, and local revenues generated by the industry in 2009 alone.
In the absence of this opportunity, more than 200,000 jobs in the gulf region will be lost during the six month suspension. Briggs asks for the government to lift to moratorium so that Louisiana can “get back to what we do best, and that’s fueling the country.” While the states in the gulf region are the ones to feel the initial shock, the rest of the country will soon be affected; “from the gas pump to the grocery store” the American economy will take a turn for the worse.
Dan Juneau, President of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, argues in the Daily World that not only will hardworking Americans be out of work, but companies are moving their jobs, research, and development overseas where drilling is permitted. These actions further our dependency on foreign oil and compromise the vitality of both our economy and national security.
Juneau contrasts the current moratorium to the “fiscal tempest,” as he refers to it, which devastated Louisiana unemployment rates, property values, and outmigration in 1986. Juneau has experienced economic turmoil first-hand and if the moratorium is not lifted, he believes the country will enter an “economic miasma” again. The difference, he contends, is that this crisis was man-made by a “governmental edict” and thus the government maintains the ability turn it around. Listening to residents and business leaders in the area, such as Dan Juneau, is a good first step in this turn-around.
As outlined above, all of the consequences of the current moratorium are counter-productive to the goals Mabus explained during Monday’s townhall.
While local residents have objected to the moratorium since its first mention, it is nice that the federal government is finally willing to listen. Let’s just hope that they really hear the need to lift the moratorium and follow through before the region and the country suffer any greater loss.
Allison Meese is a member of the Young Leaders Program at the Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: http://www.heritage.org/about/departments/ylp.cfm