Monday, March 14, 2011

Letter to The Advocate: Gulf oil, gas value exaggerated

On February 23, The Advocate published my Letter to the Editor written in response to an article the paper published asking leaders of the anti-deep water drilling moratorium leaders to explain how tax collections were up and unemployment down in the state and in the markets where the moratorium was predicted to spread economic calamity.


Here's the text of the letter:

Advocate Capitol news bureau reporter Michelle Millhollon’s Feb. 15 article on reality not conforming to the hysteria generated by critics of the deep-water drilling moratorium served a valuable purpose beyond forcing those critics to confront the facts that their scare campaign against the moratorium was a hoax perpetrated against the people of this state.

The oil and gas industry, its lobbyists and public officials dependent on the industry for political funding fanned the anti-moratorium hysteria.

The signs of the hoax can be found in the lawsuit filed to overturn the moratorium a month after it was declared.

When 37 companies joined Hornbeck International in the suit against the moratorium, it looked like an industrywide revolt against the moratorium.

The reality was that those 37 companies were owned or controlled by two prominent Louisiana Republicans, Boysie Bollinger and Gary Chouest. Bollinger controlled 21 of the companies, Chouest 16.

Gov. Bobby Jindal directed state Attorney General Buddy Caldwell to file an amicus brief in the case in which Caldwell and his attorneys lied to Judge Martin Feldman.

On page four of that June 20 brief, in his “Statement of the Case” Caldwell declared: “Because of the moratorium, many thousands of Louisiana workers have lost their employment and many more are at risk of losing it in the near future.”

The only problem with the statement is that it was not true. The Louisiana Workforce Commission weekly reports on new unemployment claims never mentioned the moratorium at any time during the spring and summer of 2010 because thousands of jobs were not lost. In fact, new unemployment claims fell through most of the summer.

Lobbyists such as Don Briggs, of Louisiana Oil and Gas Association, can be forgiven; after all, they are paid to spin stories so as to put their clients in the best light. But those supposedly independent organizations that joined in fanning the fears last summer — Greater New Orleans Inc., the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce, the LSU Center for Energy Studies — have had their credibility seriously damaged.

Public officials who were active players in this hoax — Gov. Bobby Jindal, then-interim Lt. Gov. Scott Angelle and Caldwell — must also be held accountable. Either they were knowing participants in this hoax or their industry patrons duped them.

All of this raises the possibility that we might have all been victims of a larger, longer-running hoax.

In light of the moratorium’s failure to cripple our economy, could it be that the economic importance of the offshore oil and gas industry to the state has been vastly overstated all these years?

Who can we now trust to give us an honest answer on this?

Mike Stagg
independent IT consultant
Lafayette

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