Four months ago, the tragic accident on the Deepwater Horizon set oil and gas drilling operations across the Gulf of Mexico on a different course, as lawmakers revisited longstanding debates about environmental safety and economic security. It is far too early to declare that crisis over, but it is important to note that a major milestone has been passed with the successful sealing of the BP well. Drilling of a relief well is also nearing completion.

Reasonable people would hope to see similar progress in restoring economic vitality to the region. However, the moratorium on deep water drilling in the region has still not been reversed. This, despite a growing chorus of criticism, mounting confusion over the parameters of the ban, and extensive evidence that a halt to so many drilling operations is, in effect, a job killer.

Next month, CEA will participate in series of rallies around the country aimed at highlighting the large volumes of jobs the domestic oil and gas industry supports. Our message?  A time of historically high unemployment is not the time to unnecessarily tighten the screws on an industry that supports more than nine million American jobs.

Recently, the Labor Department reported a nationwide unemployment rate of 9.5%, along with scant private sector job creation. About 15 million Americans are out of work. By hosting rallies from Texas to Ohio, Illinois, Colorado and New Mexico, CEA hopes to impress upon lawmakers and the general public how vital a strong domestic oil industry is to our national economy.

As the Obama Administration continues to defend its six-month ban of drilling in the Gulf, industry analysts say the ban’s effect may be more devastating than originally believed. This report says that while the ban only applies officially to deep water drilling, many shallow water rigs are not operating because they cannot obtain permits. Some deep water rigs have already left the region and many more are preparing to do so as a result of all the uncertainty. By one measure, the current restrictions on Gulf drilling account for the loss of 137,000 jobs. We could also detail the massive loss of tax revenue and domestic oil and gas production, but right now, we’re talking about the loss of jobs, which is devastating in and of itself.

Last spring’s tragic accident will not – and should not — be soon forgotten. We’ve repeatedly called on the oil industry to uphold the highest safety standards going forward: We cannot defend the oil and gas industry without doing our part to ensure that industry is a steward of the environment in which it operates. As we at CEA call for an easing of the restrictions that have put so many jobs in jeopardy, we also know that we cannot become complacent about the way in which we operate.

Likewise, we cannot become complacent about a drilling ban that is set to expire just a few months from now. A few months is enough time to cause extensive economic damage, especially if some rigs leave the Gulf for good. We also have no way of knowing whether the Administration will indeed end the ban in November as planned, or whether it will continue with longer-term restrictions and informal delays that could make production and exploration in the Gulf more challenging for years to come. We do not know and we cannot afford to wait. Check our web site for more information about the job rallies in September here.