Since the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico last April, the oil industry in Louisiana has been decimated. The Obama administration instituted a moratorium on any new deepwater drilling projects and a de facto moratorium on shallow-water prospects. In response, thousands of Louisiana jobs were lost, and valuable rigs were sent overseas.
After months of intense criticism, the official moratorium was lifted, but the de facto moratorium remained. For almost one year, the industry has been in a tailspin in coastal Louisiana, as thousands of families have sought food stamps or temporary jobs with the BP cleanup effort. Finally in March, the administration approved the first new deepwater oil and gas exploration plan since the BP oil spill. Shell was given approval to seek permits for three new wells in their Auger field.
Prior to the BP oil spill, the Interior Department approved an average of six permits a month in the Gulf of Mexico. In the year since the spill, less than one permit per month has been approved. In fact, only 10 permits have been issued since the moratorium was officially lifted in October. Despite these small steps, the Interior Department has not acted on scores of pending permit applications. According to the Justice Department, 270 shallow and 52 deepwater applications are in bureaucratic limbo. What the administration has done, however, is institute an array of new restrictions, which will limit drilling in the Gulf and make it more expensive. Currently there are 34 active wells in the Gulf of Mexico, half of the total that was in place prior to the BP oil spill.
The administration has also placed a full-scale, seven-year moratorium on drilling along the country’s East and West coasts, and much of the Gulf of Mexico. With the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge still closed to drilling, administration opposition to an expansion of coal mining and renewed concerns about nuclear energy in the wake of the Japanese catastrophe, there are real questions about how this country will provide for our future energy needs.
With the price of oil increasing, and gasoline costs skyrocketing, food prices are also starting to increase. In response, the administration is making drilling more difficult and pursuing policies that will make this country more dependent on importing oil from foreign dictators.
In contrast, the President should be unleashing our domestic oil and gas industry in an attempt to make this country as energy self-sufficient as possible.
Energy self-sufficiency makes perfect economic sense, and also contributes to our national security. Yet, in his recent trip to Brazil, President Obama promised that the U.S. would help their country explore for offshore reserves, and thereby become a major customer of Brazilian oil in future years. He said, “We want to help you with the technology and support to develop these oil reserves safely. And when you’re ready to start selling, we want to be one of your best customers.”
This is an amazing statement, and shows the President putting the interests of Brazil above American interests. Why should the U.S. import oil when it can drill for its own reserves? The President should be bullish toward domestic oil production, not Brazilian. Was he captivated by the beauty of Rio, and did he become disoriented? Did all of his sightseeing distract him from his primary mission of serving the needs of the American people and not the citizens of Brazil?
While Barack Obama worries about the future of the Brazilian energy industry, Louisiana residents are feeling the pain of his administration’s unwise war against domestic oil and gas production. While the national unemployment rate has dropped in the past year, Louisiana’s employment picture has worsened. In New Orleans, the impact has been dramatic, as the unemployment rate has increased from 6.6% to 7.9% in the past year. It is even worse in Baton Rouge, which has experienced the largest 12-month unemployment rate increase in the country, from 6.6% to 8.2%. Statewide, the unemployment rate increased from 6.8% to 8.0% in the past year. Today, in Louisiana, there are 25,000 more unemployed workers, an increase of 18%, from this point last year. Most of these losses can be attributed to the administration’s ill-advised drilling moratorium.
With the Middle East in turmoil and the Obama administration battling the domestic oil industry, it is understandable that gasoline prices have ballooned in recent months. Instead of relaxing his moratorium and expanding drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, the President is blaming “Big Oil” for excessive profits. At a recent town hall meeting in Nevada, the President cast the domestic oil companies as the villains. He said, “Four billion dollars of your money are going to these companies at a time when they’re making record profits and you’re paying near-record prices at the pump. It has to stop.”
For President Obama, it is more important to engage in demagoguery than address a major economic problem. It is just another sign that the President’s priorities are not in the right place, and another reason why voters should evict him from the White House in 2012. If that happens, maybe the long-suffering people of Louisiana will finally experience the end of their economic nightmare.