Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Deep Water Drilling Approved; Oil Industry Continues Whining

That whining Bobby Jindal complained about at the end of last year was apparently coming from his buddies in the oil and gas industry — not the heads of the state's colleges and universities.

The proof could be found this week when, after the Obama administration allowed 13 deep water drilling operations in the Gulf of Mexico to resume, the industry cacophony of whining ratcheted up to a higher pitch.

Too little, too late. Not enough. Too slow. Too hot! Too cold! Bwaaahhh!! The industry and its apologists, accustomed to writing the rules they then chose to ignore, are perplexed by the notion of regulation and inspection by people who (at least for now) can't be bought.

Get used to it. The well has been plugged, new rules are in place, but the whining will not stop.

The legitimacy of the whining is best assessed in the context of the earlier rage against the moratorium and the dire predictions the oil and gas lobby, elected officials, academics and other said the temporary moratorium would have on Louisiana's economy.

Lies and Propaganda

The only way to describe the claims made about the moratorium and the way it was used to attack the Obama administration in Louisiana is to call them what they were: lies and propaganda.

The liar in chief was Governor Bobby Jindal who immediately recognized that the moratorium posed a financial threat to his legions of backers in the offshore oil services industry anchored primarily in coastal southeast Louisiana.

After GOP heavy hitter, former co-owner of the New Orleans Hornets, and Jindal backer Gary Chouest's companies threatened immediate layoffs after the moratorium was declared, Jindal spoke at the first anti-moratorium rally held in an Edison Chouest facility at Port Fourchon on June 11. Jindal spoke at the second anti-moratorium rally on June 24th which was held at the Gulf Island Fabricators facility in the port in Houma where that company is working on a Chouest project that is at least partially funded by the State of Louisiana.

That rally was held four days after the Jindal-ordered amicus brief filing in the suit against the moratorium in which the governor's attorneys, headed by Attorney General Buddy Caldwell, lied to the federal judge hearing the case. In the brief, Caldwell and the other attorneys said that the moratorium had cost thousands of Louisiana workers their jobs and cited the Louisiana Workforce Commission as the source of that information.

Only one problem. The claim was not true. It was not true then and was not true all through the summer when new unemployment claims in Louisiana showed no blip attributable to the moratorium. In fact, unemployment in Louisiana stayed below 2009 levels throughout the summer of 2010.

The fact-free attacks on the moratorium (and the Obama administration) reached a crescendo at the Lafayette Cajundome on July 21. On that day, the relentless campaign of economic fear waged by the industry, the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce (technically, there is a difference), and state and local government culminated in the gathering of about 12,000 to get two hours of personally delivered lies.

All of mainstream media in Lafayette bought into the so-called "Rally for Economic Survival," setting aside any pretense of objectivity and shutting down any semblance of critical thinking. There were on-air editorials by local television stations; a front-page editorial by the Gannett daily and a heavy serving of fear-dripping op-eds by opponents of the moratorium.

At the event, then-interim Lt. Governor Scott Angelle delivered the speech he'd been perfecting on smaller audiences in which he claimed President Obama didn't like the oil and gas industry. There was a blatantly misleading presentation from the Louisiana Workforce Commission on the jobs that would be affected by the moratorium. The end of the economic world was near and Lafayette would be in ruins before the summer was out if the moratorium was not lifted.

In September, the BP Gulf Gusher was plugged. In October the moratorium was lifted. The industry whining continued because drilling and/or coastal destruction was not allowed to immediately resume.

After a quick dip in the fund-raising business, Angelle returned to his prior role as Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources where he faced a decision on how to tax his old buddies (and recent contributors) in the oil and gas industry. Some saw the glaring ethical issue that Angelle and his boss the Governor chose to ignore.

New Whinery

Now, with drilling activity officially sanctioned, the industry's apologists have cranked up the whinery again.

Their lies of 2010 rob them of any credibility.

We know for a fact now that the moratorium cost very few jobs in Louisiana and in the offshore drilling industry. There were fewer than 400 claims made on the $100 million fund set up to help compensate those who lost their jobs or income due to the moratorium. We know that the moratorium was never cited as the cause of any spike in job losses in 2010 in the Louisiana Workforce Commission's official reports (which is separate from the propaganda work they did at the behest of the Governor and the industry).

The best evidence of the lack of the impact of the moratorium on the economy, though, came in Lafayette. In December, City/Parish President Joey Durel (a speaker at the anti-moratorium rally in July) got the Lafayette Consolidated Government Council to approve a pay raise for Lafayette Parish governmental workers. Durel cited increased sales tax collections in Lafayette Parish as providing the fiscal underpinning for the raises.

If the moratorium had any economic impact, it was indirect. The direct impact was from the fear campaign waged by opponents of the moratorium who succeeded for a time in convincing people that the 2010 moratorium would send the region's economy into a tailspin that would rival the oil and gas industry collapse of the mid-1980s.

None of that happened.

The people who inflicted this hoax on Louisiana know it. The people know it. The perpetrators of the hoax must not be allowed to go unpunished for their deception.

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