The good news is that public opposition to the ban on drilling in the Gulf of Mexico is growing, and becoming more organized. Over the past two weeks, a Bloomberg poll found that a majority of Americans oppose the ban, while more than 11,000 protesters gathered near Lafayette, Louisiana to call for an end to the ban so that people could get back to work. Even an Obama Administration panel looking into the spill has expressed doubt about the merits of a broad drilling moratorium. And Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu published a letter in the New York Times, outlining how devastating and far-reaching the ban could be:
By shutting down the 33 rigs in the Gulf conducting new deepwater drilling and halting the movement of six more rigs that were coming to the Gulf this summer, the blanket moratorium has effectively laid off as many as 46,000 workers living in 68 percent of U.S. congressional districts. The net effect is like laying off every police officer and firefighter in Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana.
The not so good news is that the ban is alive and well. Yes, a federal judge overturned an Interior Department moratorium on deepwater drilling in the Gulf more than a month ago. But the Interior Department swiftly responded by issuing a new, vaguer ban said to have the same effect as the first one, but to be harder to reverse in court. And as days become weeks, the impact on an industry so vital to the economic health of the Gulf is becoming more apparent. Permits for both deep and shallow-water exploration declined due to an environment of general uncertainty over future regulations and more idled rigs are leaving the region.
One of the messages that this growing chorus of protestors is making quite well is that this looming economic devastation is not just a local issue, but that every oil job on the Gulf supports many others elsewhere. And, when good-paying jobs disappear, they are often replaced by lower-quality jobs that do not provide nearly the same earnings potential. If, that is, the jobs are replaced at all. But so far, this ill-conceived policy remains in place. Clearly, we still need to do more to rally against it.