Obama Speech Dismisses Gulf Residents' Request

President Obama told Americans Tuesday night from the Oval Office that a transition to clean energy could boost the economy and create more jobs.

He did not say what Dan Juneau, the president of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, told HUMAN EVENTS Tuesday he was hoping to hear – a relaxing of the six-month deepwater drilling moratorium the Obama administration imposed. Juneau said the policy could cost 1,000 to 1,500 jobs in the oil and gas industry for each of the 33 rigs affected by the moratorium.  This estimate does not include non-industry jobs indirectly affected.

“It’s massive, the impact that it can have on the economy, the state of Louisiana,” Juneau said. “I hope he says this moratorium can be lifted sooner.”

Juneau said several of the rigs have already announced they are taking their business elsewhere. Rep. Pete Oleson (R-Texas) told reporters at a press conference one of his constituents is invested in two of the rigs and is losing over $500,000 a day under the moratorium. Oleson said the constituent has already been contacted by interests in Australia, Brazil, and off the African coast. Oleson has also introduced a bill in the House to terminate the moratorium.

“What this moratorium has done is put a political risk factor on offshore drilling for the United States,” Juneau said.

Obama explained Tuesday the moratorium was set because he’s concerned about the safety of deepwater drilling.

“I know this creates difficulty for the people who work on these rigs, but for the sake of their safety, and for the sake of the entire region, we need to know the facts before we allow deepwater drilling to continue,” the president said.

But Juneau and a bipartisan group of House members from Gulf Coast states have said their constituents – those who have to deal with the negative consequences of the oil spill — remain opposed to the moratorium. This group of representatives will meet with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar today and ask the ban be lifted. Two widows from the Deepwater Horizon rig tragedy have also said they want offshore drilling to continue.

“People just feel like they’ve been hit with two disasters,” Juneau said. “It’s kind of like a huge earthquake with a huge aftershock.”

Rep. Steve Scalise pointed out yesterday it’s an action eight consultants asked to review the Department of Interior’s report on the spill  — which recommended a blanket moratorium — did not support.  In fact, this group claims the administration has misrepresented their position (read their view here and also their fax to Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal).

Juneau said he would have advised the president to take 30 days to review the safety procedures and equipment on a company by company basis. He said the companies were already told to do this and have already sent the results to the federal government.

Juneau said what concerns him is the administration’s reaction to local media and government officials warning the president of the devastation the moratorium will have on Louisiana’s economy.

“The response has pretty much been, “Well, if they are unemployed, if they can’t pay … their houseboat, tell them to get BP to pay it for them,’” Juneau said. “I think that’s a leap for the administration to think that the moratorium that they have imposed is going to necessitate BP paying for the losses that individuals and governments are going to get from that moratorium…I think that’s just kind of a political dodge for the president not to take responsibility for the economic havoc that he’s going to wreak on the state of Louisiana.”