Gulf Coast residents were in Washington last week to explain the high cost of President Obama’s oil drilling moratorium. The president’s policy, they said, halts more than energy exploration: It also hurts the coastal economy and the day-to-day lives of workers.
“If I was president of the United States, I would not want to be remembered as a president who signed a moratorium that destroys jobs permanently, destroys families and the way they live, and wrecks an economy for years and years to come,” said Thomas Clements of Broussard, La.
Clements and his wife Melissa own Oilfield CNC Machining, a small business that produces metal parts for oilfield equipment. When the six-month moratorium was announced, the Clements’ customers — including their biggest client — canceled all orders. The couple was unable to complete a claim because their clients would not provide copies of the cancellations. Those uncooperative clients understandably didn’t want to damage business relations with BP, the Clements explained.
“We have no income coming in,” Thomas Clements said. “None. Zero.”
That lack of income has Melissa Clements frightened, she said.
“We just feel a lot of uncertainty,” she said. “We’re scared. If we can’t do our jobs, then what do we do?”
It’s a question on the mind of many Gulf Coast residents. Scott McKay, who publishes Hayride.com, a website devoted to Louisiana news, said it’s not particularly easy for someone in the oil support industry to find a job outside of it.
“We’re talking about a gigantic support industry,” McKay said. “And those guys are freaking out because they can’t just turn to another segment of the market. If you make industrial pipe, you can’t exactly switch to something else very easily.”
Thomas Clements said the same thing.
“We’re surrounded by the oil industry,” he said. “That’s all there is. There’s no car company, no airplanes, no NASA. If I can’t work in oil, where do I go? Out of state? To another country?”
In coastal Louisiana, McKay said, 20 percent to 25 percent of the “truly good jobs” are in oil.
“When I say good jobs, I mean jobs that pay $60,000, $70,000 or $80,000 a year for high school degrees,” McKay said. “You take those jobs out of these communities and they’re going to look like Detroit.”
But, of course, the drilling moratorium is extracting jobs from coastal communities.
“It’s not just us,” Melissa Clements said. “I have a cousin whose husband works offshore. They don’t know what they’re going to do. I have a niece with three children whose husband is a pipe inspector. He used to work overtime and bring in a lot of money … He’s still working, but he works on commission and it’s hard to find jobs right now because of what’s going on, so his paycheck has changed tremendously.”
According to Louisiana Oil & Gas Association President Don Briggs, the moratorium could eliminate more than 17,500 jobs in Louisiana alone in the coming six months.
“Overall, this detrimental policy will threaten the jobs of more than 200,000 hardworking Americans in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama,” Briggs wrote in Lafayette’s Daily Advertiser.
Other estimates are more conservative, but still distressing. A recent study by Louisiana State University professor Joseph Mason, for example, put the job loss at more than 8,000 in the Gulf states and around 12,000 nationwide.
Still, Thomas Clements doesn’t understand why Obama is willing to risk even one job. If he could talk to the president one-one-one, he knows what he would say.
“You could stop this moratorium now and it would result in only positive things in life,” he said, pretending to address Obama. “You will save jobs in the U.S. You will create jobs in the U.S. You will save our U.S. economy.”
We can only hope the president somehow hears him.