Saturday, April 19, 2008

Port Fourchon: perpetual motion machine


Several Louisiana newspapers carried the Associated Press version of the Baton Rouge Advocate article on the Loren Scott & Associates study on the economic importance of the Port Fourchon energy complex.

In the style that has become expected of studies for hire, the report lays out the case for which it was produced, namely that getting more money to raise the road to the the port is a very important project. However, in making the case, it ignores the reason that the road must be raised — a sinking coast and rising sea levels.

Here are the opening paragraphs of The Advocate article:
Port Fourchon services 90 percent of the deepwater rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, and even a brief interruption of services would cost the U.S. economy billions of dollars and thousands of jobs, a study released Thursday shows.

The Greater Lafourche Port Commission, which commissioned the study, hopes the information will help convince Congress to fund upgrades and repairs to the area’s levee system and the $250 million shortfall for an elevated highway and bridge from Golden Meadow to Port Fourchon, port director Ted Falgout said.
It's understandable that the Port Fourchon study would not mention the reasons the road must be raised are due, at least in part, to the significant energy industry contributions to the destruction of coastal marsh lands and the climate change producing the rising seas.

So, raising the road to Port Fouchon (and, probably, the levees around the port, as well) is something of a perpetual motion machine.

The port serves the energy industry that is drilling for oil and gas in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Those fuels add carbon dioxide to the atmosphere as they are burned, thereby contributing to the warming of the earth, which speeds the rate at which sea levels rise. The rising sea levels (combined with the continued sinking of Louisiana's coastal wetlands) will make it necessary to raise the road to the port and the levees around it.

What's wrong with this picture? The energy industry wants the public to pay the price for mitigating the impact processes to which their own work are prime contributors. Yet, the energy industry as a whole and companies working — and profiting — from the operation of Port Fourchon (pdf) are some of the most ardent opponents of public policies that would slow the rate of climate change.

Louisiana is quite literally on the front line of the climate change front. The impacts of climate change are being felt here first — sinking land, disappearing marshes, rising sea levels are each impacts of this larger process.

Like Shell Oil and other energy companies championing a tax-payer funded repair of the damage they inflicted on our coast, the plea to save Port Fourchon is a shameless cry for help from an industry that refuses to accept responsibility for its own actions.

So, yes, save Port Fourchon. But, at least require that the energy companies and the companies that support them implement policies that mitigate the contributions that they make to the processes that require the need to save the port to begin with.

Condition support for saving Port Fourchon on their support for policies that would wean our economy from carbon-based energy.

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